Keeping Children Warm

Firefighters distribute coats, books to local charities.

Penn Daw Fire Station 11 held its annual Firefighters and Friends coat drive distribution day Oct. 26, with more than 3,000 new coats and 500 new books going to 80 schools, shelters and nonprofits throughout the county.

New Fairfax County Fire Chief John Butler and his wife Rhonda were 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.

“This is pretty impressive,” said Butler of his first Firefighters and Friends coat drive distribution. “It is the epitome of many worlds colliding – elected officials, volunteers, public servants. You can see the eyes of the children just sparkle with enthusiasm.”

Sponsors of the drive include: Operation Warm and the Alexandria-based nonprofit InspireLit, who provided several new books for each child. Caring Angels Therapy Dogs and their handlers were on hand for children to pet prior to returning to school.

“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.”