Operation Warm distribution

Published 9:22 am Friday, January 14, 2011

Laura Vick, a reading specialist at S.P. Morton, gets a coat ready for Arionna Swan during Wendesday’s distribution for Operation Warm. -- Nicholas Langhorne | Tidewater News

FRANKLIN—James Baker, an 11-year-old S.P. Morton Elementary School student, was among more than 100 students to receive a new coat Wednesday, thanks to Operation Warm and a partnership between the Franklin Rotary and Lions clubs.

“I felt happy,” James said while wearing his new coat.

After receiving their coats, James and his classmates thanked the Rotary and Lions club members who helped collect money for the coats.

“My momma always told me whenever somebody gives you something, you thank them for what they gave you,” James said.

Dr. Dylan Belt, who chaired the Operation Warm program for Rotary, said this is the first year the program was open to public donations, and the 120 coats donated this year was “at least triple, if not quadruple” the number donated last year.

“It’s a big improvement, and a lot more kids will get a warm coat out of it,” Belt said. Rotary and Lions club members helped distribute coats to students in the school’s cafeteria Wednesday.

Donations were sent to Operation Warm, which is one of the largest nonprofit organizations dedicated to distributing new winter coats in the United States. Operation Warm purchased the coats and shipped them to Franklin for distribution.

High Street United Methodist Church also donated dozens of hats and gloves — some handmade — for the students.

Clyde Parker, president of the Franklin Lions Club, said Rotary initiated the project and asked the Lions to assist, but it likely won’t be the last time the clubs collaborate.

“Both the Rotary Club and the Lions Club are community service organizations, and we felt like maybe collectively we could do things on a better scale,” he said. “We’re looking at various other ways and means that we might be able partner in doing various things for the community.”

S.P. Morton Principal Don Spengeman called Operation Warm “a real blessing.”

“Many of our parents struggle financially and this certainly will take a little bit of the burden off of them,” he said. “This is just a sample of the many blessings we get from the community.”

Spengeman pointed out that many of the same families receiving coats themselves had donated food to less fortunate families during a school-sponsored food drive for the Salvation Army before Christmas.

“They understand that there is always somebody else that’s more in need, and I think that speaks well of our families,” he said.