OC firefighters hope to raise $17K in coats drive

The International Association of Firefighters Local No. 700 is gearing up for its fifth annual Coats for Kids drive to ensure no child goes without a coat this winter.

John Horn, chairman of Coats for Kids, said firefighters will be on the streets of the north and south sides of Oil City collecting money for the drive from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday.

The street collection normally raises about $6,000, according to Horn. The goal for this year’s campaign is $17,000.

“We’re going to need close to 700 coats,” Horn said. “We hope to have them handed out by the first of November.”

The firefighters union launched its program in 2013 through Operation Warm, a nonprofit based in Philadelphia.

“One of our union members saw it online, and our union decided to jump on board because we had a need in Oil City,” Horn said. “We’ve done probably close to 2,500 coats in the last four years.”

This year, the Franklin City Fire Department is joining the cause and will be collecting money during Applefest.

Coats are purchased with donations and given to school districts based on need to anyone in kindergarten through fourth grade.

“We’ve been averaging about 400 coats in Oil City in the last four years,” Horn said. “If we have extra coats, we’ll expand to Cranberry and Valley Grove Schools.”

Some of the extra coats are kept at the school buildings for use by students who come to school without coats.

Horn said schools have reported increased attendance during winter months since the coat drive has been in effect. Students get sick less often and are more willing to endure the elements when they have appropriate winter attire, Horn said.

“It has been a great response from the community,” Horn said. “This year’s a little slower donation-wise, but we’re hoping we get everybody in.”