Keeping Youngsters Warm

Firefighters distribute coats, books to local charities.

With Fairfax County Fire Chief Richard Bowers at the helm, Penn Daw Fire Station 11 held its annual Firefighters and Friends coat distribution day Oct. 27, with more than 2,600 new coats and 500 new books going to 80 schools, shelters and nonprofits throughout the county.

Mickey Mouse was on hand to greet more than 200 Head Start preschoolers,

who were assisted by a firefighter, police officer or volunteer in selecting their own new coat and several books. The remaining distribution was done through representatives of various social services and school representatives.

“We believe a new winter coat can be more than a coat,” said Fairfax County Fire Battalion Chief Will Bailey, organizer of the event and Firefighters and Friends founder. “It builds self-esteem and tells a child ‘You are worth it and we care.’ We also see that it inspires pride and joy within a child.”

Sponsors of the drive include: Operation Warm; Apple Federal Credit Union; Whole Foods Market; Nationwide Credit Corporation; Ken & Kelly Savittiere Foundation; Medocracy, Inc.; Promax Realtors; Progressive Firefighters of Fairfax Local 2068; Fire & Rescue Retirement Asso.; Fairfax County Federation of Teachers; Fairfax County Police Dept.; Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office; Modern Technology Solutions; Fairfax County OP3; Rotary Club of Tyson Corner; Communities of Trust; and Firefighters and Friends to the Rescue.

The Alexandria-based nonprofit InspireLit provided several new books for each child while Caring Angels Therapy Dogs and their handlers were on hand for children to pet prior to returning to school.

“I think the number one way to break the cycle of poverty is through education,” Bailey added. “But without a warm coat, many kids miss school,

which also means they miss the education they need as well as a free or reduced breakfast and lunch that fuels their bodies. As firefighters, we try to find ways to help the community when we are not running 911 emergencies. Today it was providing new coats and books to children in need.”