Kids in North Platte elementary schools and the community will receive 200 brand-new coats this year, thanks to a fund drive by the local firefighters union.
North Platte Professional Firefighters Local 831 has completed fundraisers and events over the years.
“We wanted to do something that would have a much bigger impact,” said Jeremy Condon, a North Platte Fire Department firefighter and paramedic.
The firefighters turned to Operation Warm, a company that works with fire departments and other organizations to raise money. Then the company makes coats in an assortment of style and colors for the children in need.
“They’re not getting hand-me-downs,” Condon said.
The coats will first be donated to kids at North Platte schools. Any coats left over will go to the coat drive headed by Groovy Granny’s, a screenprint and clothing business that collects and donates coats through the winter.
The firefighters also teamed up with Gary’s Super Foods, where customers could choose whether to donate with a purchase and put their names on a square afterward. The effort brought in $1,600.
Private donations also came from Dr. Deb’s Express Medicine, Hoover Chiropractic, Tender Hearts Veterinary Clinic and members of the community who saw the union’s Facebook posts.
Condon said the firefighters began with a goal of raising $1,000. They’ll have raised $3,000 or more by the time all the donations are counted.
In addition to the coat drive’s success, Condon said, it was important that each coat is brand-new.
“There’s a lot to be said about something being yours,” he said. “No one else has this. No one else has worn it.”
Scott Ambrose, a North Platte firefighter and emergency medical technician, helped with the effort. Earlier Wednesday, he met with students at Buffalo Elementary School, who were “beyond” excited, he said.
“My wife is a teacher,” Ambrose said. “And I see the kids daily, standing outside without a coat on.”
He said he also hears stories from his wife about the students who come to school without coats.
Condon pointed out that winter gear can be costly.
“Even $24, $25,” Condon said, “that’s 6-7 pounds of hamburger, or 2-3 boxes of macaroni.”
The firefighters don’t know yet how many coats the local schools will order, as they’re waiting to hear back from some.
Once the firefighters turn the numbers in to Operation Warm, coats will be ready for delivery in about 10 days, Condon said. North Platte students will receive their coats in mid-November.
With a self-described successful first year, the firefighters are already planning for next year: reaching out to the community early and raising enough funds to distribute to even more schools, with extra coats for Groovy Granny’s afterward.
Condon called the effort an opportunity “for the union body to interact and be with the community.”
“You guys call on us when you need us,” he said. “And now it’s time for us to call on you.”