Firefighters raise funds to warm up Dayton's Bluff kids

All Dayton's Bluff Achievement Plus Elementary School students may be getting new coats this winter as part of a fundraising effort by the St. Paul Fire Department. (submitted photo)
If things go as planned, every single student at Dayton's Bluff Achievement Plus Elementary School will be getting a new coat this winter.
Those roughly 500 coats will come through an initiative called Operation Warm, a national fundraising effort taken up locally by the St. Paul Fire Department.
Colin Oglesbee, a St. Paul firefighter and EMT, has been spearheading the efforts.
He said the public school, which is located at 262 Bates Ave., was chosen because many of its students are in need.
According to a press release from Operation Warm, 93 percent of students at Dayton's Bluff Elementary School come from low-income households. 
All of the students are receiving free breakfast and lunch this year.
St. Paul Public Schools administrators helped the firefighters identify a school with a high number of students living in poverty.
Cindy Torguson, Dayton's Bluff school staff, noted that most of the kids walk to school and thus "have to be prepared for the elements."
Kerrie Samayoa, the school nurse, said it's a common sight to see kids coming into the front office "freezing cold" because they don't have proper winter outerwear. 
Sometimes they're wearing two or three hooded sweatshirts to keep warm, she said, while sometimes they're not wearing anything beyond indoor clothing.
She said the school has received a handful of coat donations over the years.
"Usually, we get a good dozen or so, but we never have enough to keep the kids warm."
Thus everyone felt the school would be a good fit for Operation Warm's intentions.
Rounding up funds
Firefighters went around the city collecting donations at events such as German Fest, and have also collected donations from local businesses, including Ward 6, Tongue In Cheek, Yarusso's and Morelli's. 
They've received over $11,000 so far.
But they're hoping to collect all the way up to $20,000 to be able to get a coat for each child at the school, which has pre-kindergarten through fifth grades.
So to cap off their efforts, they're holding a fundraising event at Flat Earth Brewery, 688 E. Minnehaha Ave., on Thursday, Sept. 18 from 6 to 10 p.m. 
Tickets cost $25 in advance or $30 at the door.
Oglesbee is hoping the event will draw around 300 adults.
He said they chose Flat Earth Brewery's new location at the Hamm's Brewery out of a desire to showcase the improvements there.
It's also not too far from the elementary school, he added.
The coats
The coats are made by a company called American Apparel, based in Alabama. This is not the fashion company based in Los Angeles, but rather a company specializing in military clothing.
The warm coats will come in eight different colors and many sizes. Teachers will measure all the students in upcoming weeks so that each child gets the right size of coat.
Assuming enough money is raised, the plan is for St. Paul firefighters to go into classrooms at Dayton's Bluff Elementary at the end of October. There, in the classrooms, the firefighters will deliver the coats, helping kids write their names on the tags, which will also read "Made Especially for You."
Operation Warm is a company dedicated to providing new winter coats to U.S. children in need. According to the company website, they've reached more than 1.2 million children since the company was founded in 1998.
The St. Paul Fire Department's partnership with the company comes after the International Association of Firefighters joined Operation Warm in 2012.
Specifically, for the Firefighters for Operation Warm program, Operation Warm has been able to manufacture 90,000 American-made coats, supporting over 200 jobs.
To donate to St. Paul Firefighters for Operation Warm, visit
Contact Patrick Larkin at 651-748-7816 or at Follow him on Twitter at @ESRPatrickLark.

If you go

The St. Paul Firefighters for Operation Warm fundraising event takes place Thursday, Sept 18 from 6 to 10 p.m. at Flat Earth Brewery, 688 E. Minnehaha Ave.
The event is for adults ages 21 and older, and tickets cost $25 in advance or $30 at the door. Ticket price includes a complimentary beverage.
All the proceeds will go towards purchasing new winter coats for Dayton's Bluff Elementary School students.
The event features brewery tours, distillery tours at neighboring 11 Wells Distillery, a silent auction, a raffle, access to a local food truck called Home Street Home, and live acoustic performances by Sam Breckenridge, Brian Cristofono and T. Farrell.
Tickets can be purchased online at


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