Grand Island Police Capt. Jim Duering said he loved seeing the smile on Howard Elementary kindergartner Rosely Garcia’s face Thursday morning.
As Garcia was led into the school’s cafeteria, Duering handed her a note card with her name and coat size on it before walking her to one of many boxes filled with coats.
“What color of coat do you want?” Duering asked Garcia.
“Pink,” she responded.
Duering then pulled a pink coat out of the box and gave it to Garcia to try on. The fit, she said, was just right.
“It looks good,” Duering said.
Garcia was one of about 40 Howard Elementary students who received a coat Thursday morning as part of Operation Warm, sponsored by the Grand Island Professional Firefighters and Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 24. Operation Warm is a national organization dedicated to providing coats to children in need across the country.
At the local level, the two aforementioned organizations are in their sixth year of distributing coats.
Grand Island Fire Capt. Justin Ferris said the firefighters and the FOP Lodge did some fundraising throughout the year for Operation Warm. He added the two teamed up with Kinkaider Brewing Co. to allow people to round up their bills to donate to the cause.
Ferris said about $2,400 was raised for Operation Warm to purchase coats to distribute to Howard students Thursday morning. He added 112 coats were ordered to distribute to local children in need.
In order to qualify for a coat, Ferris said, a student must be under the poverty level. Howard social worker Amy Hanna said Ferris approached her about Operation Warm and provided him with the names of qualified students in need of a coat.
“With a lot of these kids, they come in and you can see they are a bit overwhelmed seeing a bunch of big firemen and policemen standing here,” Ferris said. “But when they get to pick out the color of their coat, try it on and feel the warmth of it, the smiles on their faces makes all of this worth it.”
Duering said with snow in the forecast for this weekend, the coats should help kids stay warm while playing in the snow.
While Howard is the hub for Operation Warm, Ferris said coats will also be given to students at Jefferson Elementary and Lincoln Elementary.
Members of the public can still donate to Operation Warm by stopping at any Grand Island fire station. He added an online account will also be set up to accept donations year-round.