The spirit of giving continues to flourish in Eastern Jackson County this holiday season. This time through both Central Jackson County Fire Protection District and Independence firefighters.
On Wednesday, CJC Assistant Chief Eddie Saffell and International Association of Firefighters Local 3133 leader Kirk Lair, along with several CJC firefighters, delivered brand new, insulated coats to the Blue Springs School District and the Grain Valley Assistance Council for children in need this winter.
“I’ve heard stories of kids on the playground during recess not wearing a coat in the cold weather,” said Lair. “Sometimes they even have to share and trade-off their coat with a brother or sister and have to stay inside.”
The 105 coats in total were personally delivered by CJC firefighters and union representatives to both the Blue Springs School District Office and First Baptist Church of Grain Valley on Wednesday morning. The boys and girls coats came in a variety of colors and were sized for children ranging from kindergarten through the fifth grade. Blue Springs students will receive a little over 30 coats while Grain Valley kids have the majority to choose from. Lair mentioned all the coats were purchased by union dues from a Florida-based company.
“It feels great to have this kind of support from the community,” says Barbie Gran, a Blue Springs schools social worker. She says her and other social workers within the district will determine what children are in need of coats the most districtwide and will distribute them before the winter break.
“It’s absolutely wonderful,” Mary Strack of Grain Valley Assistance Council said regarding the donations from firefighters. She adds the coats will be available for Grain Valley children needing warmth this winter during the Christmas charity store going on at First Baptist Church of Grain Valley on 207 W. Walnut St.
“A couple years ago, we had no coats,” Strack says. “So this will be great.” About 125 families from Grain Valley will be helped by the Assistance Council with two Christmas presents for each child, a meal box for an entire family and gift cards for either Wal-Mart or Target stores, she says.
This is the first year local firefighters have donated coats for children, says Lair, who is also a fire captain of CJC. The coat drive is part of a nationwide initiative by the International Association of Firefighters called, “Firefighters Coats for Kids.” The community program provides brand new, made-in-the-USA winter coats to impoverished children and their families, according to the IAFF website.
Lair says his union chapters' efforts will stretch all throughout the Kansas City metropolitan area. “This is a metrowide cause, reaching all the way to Richmond, Missouri” adds Lair. “There was a big demand.”
Independence Fire is also part of the cause. IAFF Local 781 President Kirk Stobart says IFD will be bestowing the same kind of coats to Community Services League of Independence this Friday. “We have 60 coats to give,” Stobart says.
“We don’t want to be known for just putting out fires,” Lair said. “We want to reach out to the community as well. This is just the beginning.”