It was a warm day indeed inside the ‘Child Start-Head Start’ Program at the old Whittier School on Monday, as the Missoula Rural Fire Department supplied dozens of three to five year-old children with new warm winter coats.

One of the Child Start administrators, Sierra Balliett, explained the purpose of ‘Operation Warm’.

“We are here with the (Missoula Rural) firefighters for ‘Operation Warm’, where we’re giving free winter coats to all the children in our program today,” said Balliett. “We serve children from three to five years old, and they come to us from all different walks of life and we are excited to have them here in our program.”

Balliett said the new coats come as a welcome gift as the holidays approach.

“We usually have this event around the holiday season, and it really helps families in regards to having a winter coat on hand. Winter time is really harsh here in Montana and so we enjoy being able to offer these coats to families as it takes the cost off of the parents close to the holidays when the kids would be needing those items.”

Balliett said the facility serves three to five year-old children whose families meet federal poverty guidelines.

“We do lots of school activities, as well as play out in our spacious outdoor playground, we do arts and crafts, so there are lots of exciting things happening here every single day,” she said. “Since I work with the families, I get to help them meet their needs, and I get to hang out with the kids in the classrooms, too.”

The Missoula Rural firefighters included Max Kottwitz and Libby Hooper. Kottwitz has been in charge of ‘Operation Warm’ for the last few years, and says it’s a rewarding experience to present the new coats to kids who often don’t have a warm coat to play outside.

“It’s a huge event for us,” said Kottwitz. “We’re all about helping our community any way we can, so we take a lot of pride in that we’re allowed to help these kids be warm throughout the winter months.”