Baby, It's Cold Outside! Operation Bundle-Up

Posted on Nov 15, 2016

Volunteers Prepare Free Winter Gear for Giveaway
By Patrick McArdle

Staff Writer | November 14, 2016
Before winter hits, organizers are hoping to have another successful year for “Operation Bundle Up: Coats for Kids of Rutland County” on Saturday when coats are distributed from the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church gymnasium on Lincoln Avenue.

Heather Cooper, one of the chairwomen of the volunteer-run winter clothing drive, said this year looks to be another strong one which she said is more important as the culture changes.

“Kids these days lead very complicated lives, probably much more complicated than when I was a kid. If you can keep them warm, you can keep them active in the community during winter and they’re allowed to go out during recess. Because they have to have the proper gear,” she said.

As an example, Cooper said some kids may split their time between living with one parent and another and may keep all their winter items at one home where it’s not easily accessible. Operation Bundle Up may be able to help those kids, or kids in other complex situations, continue to get outside by providing additional winter clothing.

“That helps build a foundation for all the other stuff they’re dealing with. The last thing they need to be worried about is being cold,” she said.

Cooper also pointed out that children grow fast which presents an economic challenge to many families who want to keep their kids in appropriate gear that fits correctly.

The drive collects coats for kids but also adults, as well as boots and snow pants. What Cooper said was a small event started by a couple of local moms has grown large enough that Operation Bundle Up organizers have also been collecting monetary donations and working with area stores to buy coats and boots at a reduced rate they can give away.

At this point, organizers are not actively seeking the donations of “gently used” coats they pursue annually because they need to prepare what they’ve already gotten for Saturday’s distribution event, Cooper said.

“We have pulled the donation boxes, mainly because we wash all the coats and everything before we give them away so we’re running out of time here,” she said.

Financial donations are still being welcomed and can be made through the Rutland County Parent-Child Center and Cooper said they will never turn away the kind of cold weather clothing they’ve been giving away annually since 2008.

With donations from residents and local businesses of about $3,000, as well as the cooperation of local stores willing to offer good deals for a charitable cause, Operation Bundle-Up will have 75 new pairs of boats and new snow pants to give away, in addition to the items that have been donated.

MVP Health Care has also donated 300 new coats to the cause.

While Cooper said she didn’t have a firm number of items to be distributed this year yet, she said in 2014, the project gave away more than 700 coats.

Cooper said Operation Bundle Up is also a little different from some of the other charitable events because no one has to provide proof they receive financial assistance or even that they live in the Rutland area. In order to improve their work, the volunteers on Saturday will only collect some information like the size of the family or how the people there heard about it.

The organizers prefer that kids who come to the distribution event be accompanied by parents or guardians, Cooper said.

But she said she and Lisa Clifford, the co-chairwoman of the drive, just want to make sure kids have access to the warm, weather-appropriate gear they’ll need this winter.

“We want to spread the warmth, if you will, to as many kids as we can,” she said.

Operation Bundle Up prepares targeted donations, which are brought to area schools, prior to their distribution event.

“The nurses and the counselors provide us with a specific list of what their school needs. They generally have certain students in mind and see them every day and know where the need really is,” she said.

The coat distribution will be Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon

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