BALTIMORE — Students at Morrell Park Elementary/Middle School won’t mind the chill in the air this fall— thanks to the new coats they received from Baltimore City Fire Officers, IAFF Local 964, The Baltimore City Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3 and Horizon Services, the region’s largest privately-owned plumbing, heating and air conditioning company serving the mid-Atlantic.
More than 100 local volunteers descended on Morrell Park Elementary/ Middle School on Monday, November 14, 2016 to give new coats to every student to ensure that they will be warm during the coming cold weather. The volunteer coat give-away was conducted in collaboration with Operation Warm, a national program that distributes winter coats to children nation-wide.
Principal Nichelle Johnson was kept busy throughout the afternoon ensuring that all 471 of her students filed into the gym to select a coat and bask in the attention and companionship of a firefighter, policeman or representative from Horizon Services personally assigned to help the children select a coat and oversee the all-important fitting.
Johnson says the coat drive is an important factor in stabilizing attendance during the upcoming winter months for any of her children who don’t have adequate winter gear.
“We are continually increasing our attendance. Some of our children do not have winter coats. We have children who come to school in the winter with just a thin hoodie. We have parents here waiting to see if there are any coats left over,” Johnson said.
“All of the children in this school are getting a new coat in conjunction with firefighters and local police. Horizon Services has a community program called Horizon Helps in all the communities we serve. This year, we decided to do a Holiday Giving program in collaboration with Operation Warm, said Dinamarie Vanover, a representative from Horizon Services. It’s amazing— the kid’s smiles are so exciting. They get to pick out the color coat they want [if] it’s the size they need. It feels good to see children getting a coat to stay warm on the way to school each day.”
Morrell Park students were elated at the sight of the coats that filled the school gymnasium and the fire and police professionals dressed in uniform. Each child chose a tailor fit coat in a variety of colors.
Chloe Harris Coles, age 9 had just one word to sum up the sensation of trying on her new winter coat—“Warm,” she beamed. “It’s fun being around here with all the people who came out to see us,” Harris Coles said.
Several parents were also on hand to oversee the coat give-away. Cindy Canales, whose son Gabriel attends Morrell Park, thought that the coat give-away demonstrates important lessons to children about the role of police and firefighters in the community.
“It’s a great way for children to see that the community comes together for them. It’s a great way to show them that somebody does cares about their safety and warmth,” Caneles said.
Morrell Park veteran teacher Brianna Allison stood outside carefully watching her students as they explored one of the city’s fire trucks under the supervision of Baltimore City firefighters. Amidst the laughter and commotion, Allison summarized the significance of the event.
“Something like this is really huge on a school wide level,” Allison beamed. “This is a great day for our school to have the community support us and to know that our school matters. It is a great day for our kids to know that they matter and that Baltimore supports them.”
Operation Warm has reached more than two million children through annual winter coat give-away events across the United States since 1998. In 2012, The International Association of Firefighters joined Operation Warm and formed Firefighters for Operation Warm. Through this partnership, The Baltimore City Firefighters and Fire Officers conduct an annual coat give-away.
To make donations to support Baltimore City Firefighters for Operation Warm, visit www.operationwarm.org/BaltimoreOfficers.moreOfficers.