“Being cold is something that’s hard to camouflage,” says Claudia Averette, Chief of Staff of Chester Upland School District in Chester, PA.
When Claudia started her role, it was very clear to her that her students were missing something very important to their education – coats.
“When you have children coming to ask if you have something they can wear home because their jacket isn’t warm enough, the need is evident,” Claudia says.
This is a common problem in cities like Chester where the median income for a family of four is $26,000 per year. Families have limited resources. Between paying rent and putting food on the table coats don’t always take priority. And when kids don’t have coats in cold weather, they can’t make it to school to learn.
“I think we take for granted the little things that families just don’t have,” says Claudia.
As the temperature dropped, her students arrived to school without warm coats. They had no hats, no gloves and no scarves. Claudia turned to Operation Warm, a nonprofit whose mission is to put coats on kids in need, to provide them with coats.
“When you look at the absentee rates, they go up in January and February,” explains Claudia. “I believe that has a lot to do with not having adequate clothing.”
First Book has partnered with Operation Warm to offer coats on the First Book Marketplace so kids can make it to school and learn year-round.
The incredibly warm coats are carefully constructed. The manufacturing is high quality, so kids receive the same quality items as their more affluent peers and don’t need to worry about standing out. The coats have a tag inside for kids to write their names so they know the coat is their own. Kids can play outside with friends. It’s a great relief for their families.
For many students, when they receive an Operation Warm coat, it’s also the first time they’re receiving something new.
“When children feel good about themselves, they do good by themselves,” says Claudia. “When kids have a warm coat, they have a smile on their face. They sit up, they pay attention, they’re more astute because they just feel good about themselves!”