Firefighters raising money to buy winter coats for children in need

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Shelly Birkelo
Tuesday, September 10, 2013

JANESVILLE—Some of the most needy children in Janesville will be outfitted with new winter coats this fall thanks to a new partnership between Janesville Firefighters Charities and the national nonprofit Operation Warm.

Firefighters from the International Association of Firefighters Local 580 launched a campaign last week with a goal of collecting at least $5,000 before the end of October to buy new American-made coats for children of ECHO clients, according to a news release from Operation Warm.

"Janesville Firefighters Charities Coats for Kids is a program geared at identifying kids within our community who need a winter coat," said Justin Wiskie, local firefighters charities chairman.

"It is our goal to raise funds to buy new coats for kids whose families may not be able to afford one," he said.

Although more than 200,000 Wisconsin children are living in poverty, "we hope to make an impact in Janesville," Wiskie said.

Local firefighters will identify children most deserving of new coats by working with Everyone Cooperating to Help Others, a non-profit, faith-community sponsored charity that serves low-income individuals and families in the Janesville area, he said.

"Each year ECHO holds a back-to-school supply drive for families, but this year we are working with the firefighters to make sure these children receive winter coats, as well," said Jessica Schafer-Locher, client advocate/office manager.

Firefighters nationwide have joined forces with Operation Warm, the largest nonprofit distributor of new winter coats in the United States, to fight poverty and bring jobs back to America.

"More winter coats for disadvantaged children equates to more jobs for unemployed Americans," Wiskie said.

Firefighters will reach out to local children in neighborhoods they serve and protect.

"Working so closely with the community, we really see the struggles some families go through, so we know how much a new coat will mean for their child," said Ryan Murphy, local 580 representative.

Janesville firefighters will deliver the new coats and help the children write their names on the inside tag that will read: "Made especially for you."

"This is a program that strengthens communities and the overall well-being of children," said Carey Palmquist, Operation Warm executive director.

"A new coat boosts a child's self-esteem and allows families to stretch limited financial resources to other basic necessities, such as food and shelter," Palmquist said.

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