New coats hanging in the hallway of Cordata Elementary School

The Winter Warming Coat Distribution at Cordata Elementary School took place in December as part of Operation Warm, an annual project of the International Association of Firefighter (IAFF) Local 106 Bellingham/Whatcom County.

On Tuesday, Dec. 8, Local 106 Bellingham/Whatcom County Firefighters Association delivered hundreds of new winter coats for the 362 students enrolled at Cordata, plus their siblings. During the school day, all preschool, kindergarten, first grade and Life Skills students receiving in-person instruction (about 125 students) were given a coat. Later that evening, during a drive-thru event at the school, nearly 150 more coats were distributed to additional Cordata families, grades 2 to 5. Once everyone in the Cordata family has been given a coat if they want one, extras will be given out in the broader community.

Amy Shimek, a counseling intern at Cordata, headed up this year’s coat distribution project at the school, working closely with Jeff Heinrich of Local 106. Shimek used this initiative as her capstone project for her master’s degree in school counseling at City University. She graduates in June 2021. According to Shimek, the project was a true team effort, with many details to be coordinated and many hands behind the scenes to make everything run seamlessly.

“The firefighters from Local 106 really showed up,” Shimek said. “They were out there directing traffic, talking to students and families (at a distance, of course), delivering coats, and helping the drive-thru run flawlessly. We could not have done it without their hands-on efforts.”

Cordata students and families were excited and appreciative of the new coats and loved the variety of colors they came in this year. Having warm clothing for in-person students is especially important this school year. There are lot more hours spent outside and many more windows remaining open for fresh air and ventilation.

“With the new COVID-19 safety guidelines,” she said, “more time is spent outdoors, and some rooms are chillier because windows and doors are open to help with airflow. We think this year, heading into winter, kids need to be warmer than usual and this coat drive was a big help to the school community.”

Aside from the excitement of new warm coats, teachers and staff were happy to see kids and families during the evening drive-thru event. In this all-virtual learning environment, some teachers have been teaching to students they have not seen in-person this school year.

“I think this event really filled everyone’s cups in a time when the glass is seeming half empty a lot of the time,” Shimek said. 

According to a recent social media post, IAFF Local 106 has provided 2,500 coats for kids in Whatcom County over the past six years. Thank you to IAFF Local 106 for their winter coat distribution every year.

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