Mount Vernon With Fairfax County Fire Chief Richard Bowers at the helm, Penn Daw Fire Station 11 held its annual Firefights and Friends coat distribution day Oct. 27, with more than 1,600 new coats and 500 new books going to 70 schools, shelters and nonprofits throughout the county.
More than 220 preschoolers arrived by bus to select their own new coat and several books. The remaining distribution was done through various social services and school representatives.
“We had requests for over 3,000 new coats so we will have another event in December,” said Capt. Will Bailey, organizer of the event and Firefighters and Friends founder. “We understand that giving a child a new coat builds self-esteem. It’s brand new, all their own and creates a sense of pride in ownership that we hope fosters self-confidence in children.”
Sponsors of the drive include Operation Warm, Fairfax County Police Dept., Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office, Apple Federal Credit Union, Progressive Firefighters of Fairfax, Local 2068, Liberty Mutual Insurance, Nationwide Credit Corporation, Primo Family Restaurant, Modern Technology Solutions, Medcracy and Fairfax Fire & Rescue Retirement Assoc.
Caring Angels Therapy Dogs and their handlers were also on hand with 10 dogs for the 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. “With a brand new coat children can go to school more often on cold winter days, where they receive nourishment for their minds and bodies. In the end, we believe a new winter coat gives children the freedom and confidence to play more, learn more and do more. When we are not running 911 emergencies we are trying to find ways to help the community and today it was providing new coats and books to children in need.”