Friday, November 26, 2021
Nov. 26, 2021

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Firefighters, businesses, donors team up to give coats to Clark County children

By , Columbian staff writer
Published:
5 Photos
Fourth-grader Maria Bella, left, tries on warm winter coats with the help of Capt. Marc Patchin at Marshall Elementary School on Friday morning. The Vancouver Firefighters Union (I.A.F.F. Local 452) in cooperation with the City of Vancouver Fire Department, private donors and local businesses donated coats to local children.
Fourth-grader Maria Bella, left, tries on warm winter coats with the help of Capt. Marc Patchin at Marshall Elementary School on Friday morning. The Vancouver Firefighters Union (I.A.F.F. Local 452) in cooperation with the City of Vancouver Fire Department, private donors and local businesses donated coats to local children. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

In cooperation with the Vancouver Fire Department and a handful of private donors and local businesses, members of the Local 452 branch of the International Association of Fire Fighters distributed winter coats to children at Marshall Elementary School on Friday morning.

This winter marks firefighter Kady Bieber’s fourth year leading Operation Warm — the joint project that donates winter wear to young children across Clark County at various locations from now through the Christmas season. Bieber and others involved in the project donated more than 300 coats last year.

“If you just stand here and watch as these kids get these coats, some of them are welling up with tears, some of them get all giddy, some are nervous or shy,” Bieber said. “Just watching their faces and their reactions says it all. It means a lot.”

As groups of students lined up to find coats they liked the most, other firefighters gave tours of a fire engine to student groups from other classes. Children also had the chance to meet a local Santa Claus, who kindly asked them each if there was anything else they’re hoping for ahead of the holiday season.

“It’s always a shock to see how many kids don’t have coats, and it’s real cold out here, even today,” said Trent Best, a first-time volunteer helping to organize the event.

Kerry Furimsky, a Farmers Insurance agent in Vancouver, organized a GoFundMe to continue raising donations from the public in order to buy more coats throughout the winter. Furimsky was introduced to Bieber and Operation Warm in 2020, when the group was reaching out to local business owners as the COVID-19 pandemic made it harder to garner support for the event. As an insurance agent, her connections to many local business owners has helped the project see increased success.

“There’s just a need here in Clark County for some basic stuff, especially since last year and the financial difficulties that families have had with COVID,” Furimsky said. “For Christmas I wanted to get involved in something and find a way to help out my community, and this was presented to me and it seemed like a really perfect fit.”

Furimsky’s GoFundMe has raised $500 in the early stages of the donation season and hopes to receive even more support as the efforts continue in the coming weeks. In addition to money, they are also open to receiving new to gently used coats.

Donations can also be made at one of four drop locations across the county: Brake Zone in Vancouver, Flow Hot Yoga in Vancouver, Furimsky Insurance Agency in Vancouver, and NW Nut in Ridgefield.

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