MANCHESTER, NH – Dawn Barrette said the gift of warm coats for her young sons couldn’t have come at a better time.
“Especially my little one – he really needed it,” said Barrette, who was one of several families gathered at Families in Transition on Lowell Street recently to receive the coats, where the city’s neediest families have found hope – and now, a little extra warmth.
Her sons, Dareeyin, 8, and Daeceeyin, 2, were among a small group of children who picked out colorful new winter coats in their sizes, courtesy of Operation Warm: Coats for Kids Foundation and Manchester Professional Firefighters Association, IAFF Local 856.
With the help of their union members and some local businesses, the Manchester firefighters managed to raise more than $10,000 – enough for 300 American union-made coats in every color of the rainbow.
Stephanie Savard, Families in Transition vice president, said they only heard about the generous donation a few weeks ago.
“When we hear ‘coat drive’ we don’t expect new coats. These are just beautiful, and wonderfully appreciated,” Savard said. “They’re bright and colorful, and this is the beginning of a great relationship with the Manchester Fire Department.”
Families in Transition provides housing, day care and other essential services for the city’s homeless families who are making the transition to a more stable life.
Savard said the coats will be distributed to the 16 preschoolers, who are homeless, enrolled win their academic/therapeutic preschool program, which is filled to capacity, along with their siblings. Two other city agencies also were able to benefit from the generous gift of new coats.
“This program helps stabilize the kids, and helps them break the cycle of homelessness. With early intervention, they have better odds of getting up and out of poverty,” Savard said.
Manchester Fire Capt. Brendan Burns said the firefighters union partnered with Granite United Way to identify the three local organizations that could benefit from the coats – The Way Home and the Bring It after school program, in addition to FIT.
Jeff Duval, IAFF Local 856 president, said he looks forward to continuing with Operation Warm in Manchester for years to come.
“One of the things we realize is today we have a lot of smaller children who we’re giving out size 5 and 6 jackets to. Three years from now they’re going to be in 8s and 9s. Unfortunately, their size may change, but their financial situation may not, so we’re hoping to make this a long-term yearly goal of the Manchester Professional Firefighters, along with the International Association of Fire Fighters,” Duval said.