MANCHESTER, NH – For the fifth New England bundle-up season in a row, Manchester Professional Firefighters Association IAFF Local 856 has stepped up to provide a different kind of emergency response to the community. Operation Warm, part of a national initiative to bring brand new warm winter coats to kids in need, is in full swing and, this year, will deliver about 800 colorful coats thanks in part to Friday’s $10,000 check delivery from Arthur Sullivan, on behalf of Brady Sullivan Properties.
Sullivan said when he heard about Operation Warm this year he was moved to support the effort.
“For us it’s all about being involved in our community, and if it helps the kids there’s nothing more important, knowing they’ll be warm and that their self-esteem might be impacted by not having the right clothing,” Sullivan said, after dropping off a ceremonial “big check” at Central Fire Station Friday. Afterwards, he handed off the actual check to MPFFA President Jeff Duval, who could not say enough about the outpouring of support from community partners for this year’s fundraising drive.
“The importance of continuing this and having donations like this will allow us to get jackets next year for kids who may be growing out of the jackets they got four years ago,” Duval said.
Manchester Fire Capt. Jonathan Starr said what’s unique about Operation Warm is that, unlike other coat drives that solicit “gently used” coats for distribution, firefighters are able to deliver brand new coats in various colors and styles, so kids not only can pick a coat they love, but one that gives them a sense of pride.
“It gives them a little bit of self-esteem.. and also gives the families a bit of financial relief. They don’t have to worry about buying their child a coat, and can spend the money on something else the family needs,” Starr said.
Getting the word out about the program helps to make sure all kids in need of a new coat can get one. In a few weeks the coats will arrive in boxes and a group of firefighters will arrange for two centralized coat drops, at Beech Street School and Parker Varney. From there, school counselors will come and pick up coats for students who’ve been identified as recipients. The firefighters also deliver coats to The Way Home and Families in Transition, and work closely with the city Health Department to make sure no child in need has to go without. Including this year’s effort, Duval says Operation Warm will have outfitted 2,500 kids over five years.
Anyone who would like to suggest a student recipient can contact that child’s school guidance counselor, Starr said.
The outreach has grown over the years, says Duval, to include other spontaneous gestures of generosity from the community at large.
“Yesterday I stopped by The Pint where the manager, Emily – who’s a knitter – gave me a bag of about 30 hand-knitted hats for the kids, so we’re going to separately give those to the school district and they can pass those out at their discretion and make sure kids who need them gets them,” Duval said. “She said she’s going to keep knitting as many as she can between now and Thanksgiving – in time for coat delivery, which should be around the first week of December.”
In addition to Friday’s $10,000 donation from Brady-Sullivan Properties, Duval wanted to mention other top donors this year, including Good Neighbor Fencing, Dunkin Donuts – Scrivanos Group, Keller Williams, The Pint Publik House, Nick Vailas/BASC Imaging, Cross Insurance & Telecom Pioneers.