Held at Fire Station 11 in the Penn Daw section of the Route 1 corridor, Butler, McKay and Storck helped prepare coats that were distributed to representatives of more than 60 schools, shelters and nonprofits.
For the first time since 2019, children from the Mount Vernon Head Start program in Gum Springs were able to attend in person, something Storck said he missed in those years.
“Seeing the kids coming through and trying on the coats gives all of us a chance to connect with them and really see the joy and the excitement in their eyes,” Storck said of the 180 children that participated in person this year.
Added Battalion Chief Willie Bailey, “Bringing the children back after two years of COVID was a welcoming sight for the volunteers. They truly enjoy assisting the kids with choosing a coat and it brought back some normalcy to our annual event after the pandemic.”
Bailey founded the Firefighters and Friends to the Rescue nonprofit as part of a holiday toy drive more than two decades ago. The coat drive began 17 years ago.
“This is the 17th year distributing coats to the community,” Bailey said. “We have come a long way. The first few years we gave away a few hundred used coats. Now fast forward 17 years later and with the help of Operation Warm we are providing thousands of new coats to families in need.”
Coats are obtained through the national nonprofit Operation Warm with local volunteers sorting and distributing to those in need throughout the region.
“When we are not running 911 emergencies, we are trying to find other ways to help the community,” Bailey said. “Today it was giving away thousands of new coats to deserving children. But it would not be possible if not for our sponsors who make generous donations so we are able to purchase the coats.”
Sponsors of the coat drive include: Operation Warm; Ken & Kelly Savittiere Family Fund; Apple Federal Credit Union; Local 2068; Progressive Firefighters of Fairfax; Jack Taylor Toyota; Nelson Alexander Sr. Foundation; Nationwide Credit Corporation; Medocracy, Inc.; Fairfax County Federation of Teachers; Fairfax Education Association; Fire & Rescue Retirement Association; Primo Family Restaurant; SEIU; PROMAX Management, Inc.; Caring Angels Therapy Dogs; Communities of Trust; Fairfax County Police Department; and the Mount Vernon Gazette.
“A new coat means so much to a child,” Bailey said. “It provides a child both physical and emotional warmth. It helps a student attend school, socialize with their peers and play outside with pride. And it reminds them that there are those in their community that care about their well-being and future.”