The Spokane Valley Firefighters Union Local 876 was searching for ways to give back to the community. It found an opportunity with Operation Warm.
Operation Warm is a national nonprofit that provides new winter coats to children in need. Proceeds from the local’s fundraiser will go toward the purchase of new coats for Spokane Valley children in need.
The local so far has collected $1,925 and received $800 in pledges, firefighter and EMT Scott Niebuhr said. The local hopes to raise $5,000 to buy 250 coats, which cost about $20 each, he said.
Large donors are Mutual of Enumclaw Insurance with a $1,000 gift, Dishman Dodge Ram Chrysler Jeep of Spokane Valley, $500, and General Fire Apparatus Inc., $300. A business that wants to remain anonymous donated a $300 cash card to buy coats from it. The Spokane Indians donated four box seat tickets for next season that the local can auction.
Any donation great or small would be accepted and appreciated, Niebuhr said.
Donations must be made by Oct. 10. The local is working with the Central Valley School District to identify children in need of new coats, he said. Children’s coat sizes will be collected by Oct. 20, and coats will be ordered and delivered around Nov. 1.
The local hopes to incorporate West Valley and East Valley school districts in the future, Niebuhr said.
Operation Warm, based in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, works with two manufacturers. SEKRI is a Corbin, Kentucky-based nonprofit that employs people with disabilities in the manufacturing industry. The other manufacturer is in China.
The IAFF Firefighters endorsed Operation Warm five years ago. Since then about 1,000 fire departments around the country have helped provide more than 200,000 coats for children in need, according to the Operation Warm website.
Last year Milwaukee Firefighters Local 215 raised $128,000, Niebuhr said. St. Paul Firefighters Local 21 and Minneapolis Firefighters Local 82 combined to raise more than $60,000 in 2016 and this year have raised more than $100,000, he said.
Niebuhr said the local’s effort is not intended to compete with other fundraisers or drives for coats for children. It offers a different approach.
“Unlike used coat drives, which are still very important to the Spokane area, these are brand-new coats from a nonprofit manufacturer and may be the only truly new coat that some of these kids have ever owned,” said Niebuhr, who has been a firefighter for eight years.
“Spokane Valley Firefighters Local 876 loves finding new ways to help the community we serve, and if successful could build this into a yearly event to work alongside other area coat programs.”
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