First responders from across the county came together Oct. 28 to help distribute more than 3,000 new coats to children in need as part of the annual Fairfax County Firefighters coat drive.
Held at Fire Station 11 in the Penn Daw section of the Route 1 corridor, the coat distribution serves 70 schools, shelters and nonprofits.
“This was the most coats ever distributed,” said Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Deputy Chief Willie Bailey, the organizer of the drive. “Prior to the school staff arriving we had buses drop off more than 200 preschool kids so we could personally place new coats on them.”
Fairfax County police and sheriff’s department volunteers assisted each child in selecting a new coat, hats, gloves, and books provided by InspireLit, a nonprofit that provides new books to school age children.
“We are one of the richest continents on the earth, but here there are 16 million children living in poverty,” Bailey said. “For families struggling to make ends meet, necessities like food, housing and healthcare take priority. Often there is simply not enough left over for warm winter clothing, so we feel we can make a difference by doing our little part.”
Adult representatives of county nonprofits and schools were also on hand to select coats for children not in attendance.
“A new coat provides self-confidence in a way that second-hand clothing cannot,” Bailey added. “It also provides physical warmth and emotional warmth. And a brand-new coat provides the opportunity to get to school and gain an education regardless of the weather conditions.”
Sponsors for the coat drive include: Operation Warm; Apple Federal Credit Union; Progressive Firefighters of Fairfax; Local 2068; Nationwide Credit Corporation; Promax Realtors; Retired Fairfax County Fighters Association; InspireLit; Communities of Trust; Fairfax County Police Department; Fairfax Sheriff’s Department; Supervisor Dan Storck’s Office; and Karen Corbett Sanders, Mount Vernon District School Board.
“Our sponsors and volunteers came out in full force to help so many children this year,” Bailey said. “From the looks on the faces of the kids and the volunteers, it’s difficult to say who was having more fun.”