Stevens Point firefighters raising funds to buy 100 winter coats
By Brandi Makuski
For their second consecutive year, Stevens Point firefighters are working to keep kids warm over the winter.
Last year, the firefighters raised just enough funds to purchase 102 coats for local kids in need through Coats for Kids’ Operation Warm.
“We didn’t really advertise the program last year, so we didn’t know what to expect,” said firefighter/paramedic Matt Zander said. “Last year, we were $30 or $40 short; we just wound up passing a hat to raise the rest. It was close, but we raised exactly the amount we needed.”
The coats, according to Zander, cost $34 a piece from the Operation Warm organization, and are made in the U.S.A.
“We’re estimating we’ll need another 100 coats for this year,” Zander said. “It’s hard to estimate because the kids who got coats last year may have grown, and there will be some new kids who need coats, but 100 is our goal.”
Zander said using funds donated by the community, the department purchases high-quality winter coats from Operation Warm, which they distribute to students at local schools. Kids in need are identified by teachers and counselors at each school, and are notified by letter from the district.
“Teachers usually have a pretty good feel for what the kids need — we try to be discrete about it,” Zander said. “We don’t want anyone to feel like they’re an outcast for wearing these, so we try to mix it up so kids at the same school don’t have the same coat.”
Zander added the school district also includes information on its website, so families not already notified with a student in need can print out a request form.
Once the coats arrive at the firehouse, Zander said firefighters plan to deliver to the kids at each of the schools in mid-November.
“The secretaries at each school have been awesome; they have the kids waiting for us in the office,” he said. “The kids last year were super excited; some of them wore the coats right out of the office and that’s the best part for us, seeing their reaction. Some of these kids never get anything brand new.”
The department is well-known for its fundraising throughout the area. Each August, the department solicits funds to benefit the Muscular Dystrohpy Association, and exceeds their goal every year. During the month of October, the department is also donning pink, and selling pink t-shirts to help benefit local breast cancer awareness and research.
“We all live in the Portage Co., everyone that works here,” Zander said. “We just care about the community, it makes the job so much more fun when you get to do stuff like this. It’s kind of difficult to keep asking people for funds, but when a charity comes to us like this, you can’t say no — especially for winter coats.”