Warming hearts and hands: Firefighters give 15 kids brand  new winter coats

Tyler Zierke, a kindergartner at Washington Elementary School, shows off his “awesome” new coat from North Platte Professional Firefighters Local 831 and Operation Warm on Friday.

The 15 Washington Elementary School students didn’t know why they were called to the the office, or why they were met by firefighters, their principal and members of local media.

Principal Greg Fruhwirth told them that they’d all been selected to receive a brand new coat from the firefighters. Soon firefighters — who will donate 166 coats across North Platte’s elementary schools in coming days — began checking coat sizes from the boxes behind them and calling out names. They helped the students into the coats of different sizes and colors.

“I asked for pink and I got pink!” one girl told a friend, before telling her to check out that new coat smell.

The students had been measured and given some options for the coats earlier in the fall.

“This is awesome!” said kindergartner Tyler Zierke.

He showed off that his coat has Velcro underneath its hood.

“It does this,” he said, fastening and unfastening the Velcro.

“I think the biggest thing this means to our families here at Washington is they have something to wear when it’s warm,” Fruhwirth said. He added that 52 percent of the students at Washington Elementary School qualify for free and reduced lunches.

“It’s a big deal for kids to receive something that’s brand new,” said Jeremy Condon, a firefighter and paramedic.

He and others in the firefighters union, North Platte Professional Firefighters Local 831, began their efforts early in the fall. They wanted to raise money for the community, while involving the community, he said.

Coats came from Operation Warm. Donations came from the community through Facebook posts, a number of local businesses and a partnership with Gary’s Super Foods. Other businesses that donated were Dr. Deb’s Express Medicine, Hoover Chiropractic and Tender Hearts Veterinary Clinic.

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