Tuesday , January 06, 2015 - 8:02 AM
OGDEN -- Mario Lopez jumped up and down, excitedly telling his teacher “I like it! I like it!”
The kindergarten student was talking about his new blue coat, with an orange lining.
“It’s awesome, and it matches my shirt, and I like it,” he said.
The coat was a much-appreciated gift.
“My other coat’s old — about to break,” said Lopez.
The coat wasn’t a Christmas present, but one of 330 warm coats delivered to Dee Elementary School Monday, when students returned from winter break. The special delivery was made by Ogden City firefighters and police officers.
“The Professional Fire Fighters of Utah, which is the organization that sponsors Coats for Kids, they’re the ones that put all of this together,” said Eric Bauman, deputy chief for Ogden City Fire Department. “They work with school districts throughout the state to find schools that are in need, and give coats to the kids who need them most.”
A school in West Valley City was selected for the 2014 coat distribution, but a donation from CentiMark Roofing and Flooring allowed firefighters to also give coats to two classes at Ogden’s Dee Elementary. The firefighters thought they were finished delivering coats for a while, but a news story about the Warm Coats for Kids program generated more interest.
“At the last minute, we had an anonymous donor who heard about the program and wanted to bring more coats to Ogden City,” said Bauman. “With this person’s generous donation, we were able to have 330 coats donated.”
That means 330 more children will be warm this winter.
“I needed a new coat,” said Edgar Cardona, a sixth grader at Dee Elementary, explaining that his old coat was in bad shape. “It was just getting thin.”
Cardona’s classmate, Isaac Banuelas, said his new coat will be a change from his old one.
“It’s warm,” he said.
Aleasa Anderson, a sixth grade teacher at Dee Elementary School, said the coat donation was awesome.
“This area is a 100 percent poverty area, so I often have kids saying they don’t want to go out to recess because it’s too cold out, and they don’t have the proper clothing,” said Anderson. “They should be all ready to face the cold when they go out to recess now.”
Representatives from the Professional Fire Fighters of Utah worked with the school district to get coat sizes for each of the students, and placed the order.
“There’s a boys coat, and a girls coat, in different colors, and all of the coats have hoods,” said Bauman.
Firefighters and police officers carried several boxes into the school, then helped each student find his or her coat. After the students tried the coats on to verify the fit, they helped write the child’s name in permanent marker on a label.
“Police and fire work close together, and I just thought it would be great to have police there, too,” said Susan Davis, the PFFU chapter secretary who coordinates the Operation Warm Coats for Kids program in Utah. “A lot of our firefighters came on their day off, and the police came on their day off.”
Lt. Will Cragun, of the Ogden Police Department, said the officers were happy to help.
“A good, positive influence and interaction with the youth is how we’re going to make a difference,” he said.
Students say they are grateful to the firefighters, police officers, and the coat donor.
“I think it’s really cool, and really sweet of them, to give us coats for the people who can’t afford it,” said sixth-grader Annahi Zavala.
Yeimi Camargo, also in sixth grade, agrees.
“I think it’s pretty cool that they’re giving us coats, ’cause some people can’t afford coats,” she said. “Some people come and they’re cold, and they ask for coats, so they have to get them out of the lost and found. ... Now we get our own new coats.”
Davis said $30 buys a coat for a student. At that rate, the latest donation to keep kids warm at Dee Elementary School was $9,900.
Firefighters aren’t giving any clues about the identity of the donor.
“They just asked to remain anonymous, and we’re just extremely appreciative of the generous donation,” said Bauman. “There’s a great need. Many of the children that we talked to either had very old coats, or didn’t have any coats at all.”
Contact reporter Becky Wright at 801-625-4274 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @ReporterBWright.
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