First responders from across the city gathered at the Departmental Progressive Club Nov. 9 to help distribute more than 200 new coats to children in need.
“We gave away over 200 new coats to deserving children in Alexandria,” said former City Councilman Willie Bailey, organizer of the coat drive. “We also gave away new books, and a clown was there to make the day fun for the kids.”
Bailey, Deputy Chief of the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue department, founded Firefighters and Friends to the Rescue nearly 20 years ago. What began as a small toy drive during the holidays has grown to include a backpack drive in August and the October coat drive, all of which serve thousands of children and social service organizations throughout the Washington region.
“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.”
This was the first time the Departmental Progressive Club hosted the coat drive distribution, which provided coats to children from the Charles Houston Recreation Center
“You will see the club getting more involved in the community,” said Bailey, a member of the 92-year-old organization. “The DPC was founded on community engagement so we will be more focused on outreach and keeping it in the forefront.”
Earlier in the day, Bailey and a group of volunteers distributed more than 100 coats to families at the Patrick Henry Recreation Center.
“It was really nice to see our public safety folks escort the kids to the tables and help them pick out a new coat,” Bailey said. “We had volunteers from the Alexandria Police Department, Sheriff’s Office, Fire Department and Department of Emergency Communications.”
Sponsors of the coat drive included: Operation Warm; Firefighters and Friends to the Rescue; Alexandria City Parks and Recreation Department; and the Debra Deneise Smith Foundation.
“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 new coat provides the opportunity to get to school and gain an education regardless of the weather conditions.”
For Bailey and the volunteers, it was a long but fun day.
“From the looks on the faces of the kids and the volunteers, it’s difficult to say who was having more fun,” Bailey said. “Our sponsors and volunteers came out in full force to help so many children this year.”