By Tyler Kennedy

Staff Writer

The Durham Professional Firefighters Association has recently partnered with representatives from Lee and Madbury fire departments to support Operation Warm, a relatively new initiative for the three towns.

Founded in 2002, Operation Warm is a nationwide program designed to combat one of the most unfathomable hardships of childhood poverty: the lack of adequate winter clothing. To date, the organization has provided new winter coats to over 1.7 million children throughout America and beyond.

“It’s all tax-deductible. It’s a good program. It helps kids who need coats, and it stays local. That’s why we got involved with it,” said Dave Blatchford, a member of Durham Professional Firefighters Association.

“Anything we could do in the community to help, that is what the union is about,” Blatchford added.

Each jacket costs $34 and is fully paid for by donations to Operation Warm. According to the official website, 97 cents of every dollar donated goes directly towards purchasing coats  while the remaining 3 cents goes to the overhead expenses necessary to sustain and grow the program.

According to Blatchford, the coats provided by Operation Warm typically fit children who are sixth grade age and younger, although he also said the union has decided to pay for any necessary coats above that size. However, the union would need to do so outside of the Operation Warm program. Blatchford also noted approximately 115 local kids are eligible to receive a coat if everything works out. With that in mind, he said $4,000 would be a great benchmark to hit.

During the next few months, a booth pertaining to the program will be set up outside of UNH home sporting events such as hockey and football games. Firefighters from Durham, Madbury, and Lee will be present at the booth, which they hope will bring more attention to the program.

When asked to comment on Durham’s involvement with the program, Rich Lalley, who serves as the executive director of Operation Warm expressed his gratitude.

“We are so grateful to the Durham Professional Firefighters Local 2253 for organizing Operation Warm in their community. This program will bring the happiness and warmth of new American-made winter coats to local children living in need… It does not take much to bring a new coat to child, but it means so much to them,” Lalley said.

There has also been an initiative to get students from the university involved with the program. Blatchford noted several fraternities and sororities have been approached in regards to joining the ‘operation.’

Patrick Hampson of Lambda Chi Alpha understands the impact that Operation Warm can have in the local community.

“Many of us take for granted things such as not worrying about being cold during a winter storm. It is the simply things that we have come to accept as rights that many other people would be beyond joyful to have,” Hampson said.

For those who might be willing to donate, Hampson suggested making small changes in their daily routine.

“Take a few extra bucks you could part with and send it their way. That extra coffee that is an impulse buy, the leisurely money spent on the weekends or even the change in your pocket. We are asking everyone to look into the cause,” he said.

Online donations can be made online, and 97 percent of all donations made will go towards making children of Durham, Madbury, and Lee a little warmer this winter.

One of the 1.7 million jackets Operation Warm, a nationwide program, provides for children throughout America.

One of the 1.7 million jackets Operation Warm, a nationwide program, provides for children throughout America.