Massena Permanent Firefighters trying to raise $1,700 for 50 children's coats as part of Operation Warm
Monday, November 26, 2018 - 5:51 am

MASSENA — Members of the Massena Permanent Firefighters, IAFF Local 2220 are hoping to raise enough money to purchase 50 brand new, American-made children’s winter coats as part of Operation Warm, a national nonprofit effort.

Operation Warm partnered with the International Association of Fire Fighters in 2012, and Massena firefighters Christopher Bertrand and Justin Niles said the union wants to do its part.

“It’s a tool for us to give back,” Niles said.

He said the local held a 9/11 Walk/Run To Remember in the past to raise money for the department’s “Safe Home” fund and fire-prevention programs, and this was another good way to raise funds for something that would impact the community.

“Some kids might just have a hoodie. Up here a coat is vital. For somebody not having a coat, it’s just like not having a house,” he said.

For this year's effort, Niles said they wanted to focus on the Massena Head Start program, the Boys and Girl's Club of Massena and other child-care facilities that may have children in need. As a community, about 50 percent of the children in Massena are living in poverty, he said.

Each coat costs $34, and they come in boxes of six.

“I took $34, figured out how much it would be for 50 kids and that’s the goal I set,” Niles said.

They’re worth the price, though, he said, noting that a children’s coat of the same quality would likely cost around $70 in a store, and even non-brand names would be in the $50 to $60 range.

The coats are in a variety of sizes and colors.

He said that while the focus is on providing coats to children, this isn’t a coat drive. The union will accept monetary or in-kind donations to fund the initiative. Since Operation Warm is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, any contributions are tax deductible.

It’s more than just a coat for some students, according to Niles. He said, beyond warmth, a new coat positively impacts a child’s school attendance, self-esteem and overall health and well-being.

And the donations help more people than just children. Because the coats are made in the United States, it creates American jobs and boosts the economy, he said.

“In a manufacturing community such as ours, we all know right now is not the most opportune time for those types of jobs. If we can come together and secure some of those jobs, even if we’re not affected locally, it affects us nationally,” he said.

Donations can be made in person at the Massena fire station, sent in to the Permanent Firefighters or online at https://give.operationwarm.org/massena.

“It’s very easy. The link is nice and secure,” Niles said.

For those who donate locally, Niles said, they’ll collect the donations and write a check to Operation Warm.

“Say they can’t afford to pay the $34. If you have a dollar, we’ll take a dollar. It’s like any donation we used to do for the 9/11 program. We’ll take whatever people can give. If 100 people give $1, that’s $100, for three coats,” he said.

Nov. 27 has been designated as Giving Tuesday, a global day of giving. For Operation Warm, that means that any donations made today will be matched by anonymous donors, up to $50,000. Donors must specify the local program, Massena Permanent Firefighters, IAFF Local 2220, when making a donation.

The fundraiser has had a big impact across the nation, Niles said.

“Operation Warm started affiliating with IAFF in 2012. With that, they’ve supplied coats to hundreds of thousands of kids across the country. Right now they’re aiming within the next few years to supply 500,000 to 600,000 across the country,” he said.

Some departments give coats to families to use as Christmas gifts, but Niles said their effort will be continuing beyond Christmas.

“In January we’ll start over again. It will be a 12-month thing we’re working on,” he said.

More information can be found on the department’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/mpff2220/.