The high temperature in Collinsville Monday was 27 degrees, which is 28 degrees below normal for Nov. 17. It was a perfect day for some of the neediest Collinsville elementary school students to receive a brand new coat from the Collinsville Fire Department.
Collinsville firefighters passed out coats at Renfro and Webster elementary schools Monday, the first day of an effort that will see the firefighters distribute coats to the 50 neediest children in the Collinsville Unit 10 elementary schools. Organizer Mat Sienkiewicz said the department wished it had enough money to buy coats for kids in every school in the district, but he is happy with what the department was able to accomplish in the first year of the program.
The Collinsville Fire Department raised money for the Coats for Kids Fund at fundraisers throughout the year. All of the department’s proceeds from the Chili Cook-off at the Uptown Fall Festival went toward the effort, as did a portion of the proceeds from their mouse racing fundraiser.
Sienkiewicz got the idea for the program when he was reading a story about a similar national program last winter. After speaking with the Unit 10 Administration, he determined that there was a need.
“Something I didn’t even think about is the bus stop,” Sienkiewicz said. “If it is too cold for the kids to wait for the bus, their parents might not send them to school that day, and then they miss out on their only meal of the day, because of the free and reduced lunch program.”
Renfro Elementary School Principal Laura Bauer said students still go outsides for recess in the winter months, which makes having a warm coat very important.
“We are thankful to the Fire Department for making that a possibility with their kindness today,” Bauer said.
At Webster Elementary School, the children were called to the auditorium one at a time to receive a new coat. To protect the children’s privacy and ensure they were not embarrassed, the children were not told before they arrived why there were going to the auditorium and no announcements were made.
The children were all extremely happy when they arrived to find a group of firefighters to help them pick out a coat. After getting the perfect coat for each child, a firefighter put the child’s initials on the tag of the coat and sent the children back to the class, smiling.
Webster Principal Brad Snow, who watched some kids arrive at school on the bitter-cold day wearing only a sweatshirt, said the value to the children goes beyond a warm coat.
“The kids see that someone cares about them and wants to help them out,” Snow said.