250 of Missoula’s underprivileged kids will be protected from the cold this winter thanks to ‘Operation Warm’ from Missoula Rural Fire District.

On Tuesday at Missoula’s Head Start, located at the old Whittier School, MRF Engineer Max Kottwitz said this is the fifth year that he and his fellow firefighters are handing out new warm, winter coats to three and four year-old kids.

“We’re handing out coats today, this is our first event of Operation Warm, and it’s our biggest event of the year and we’re handing out 250 coats today to children in need,” said Kottwitz. “Operation Warm is a national company that we teamed up with and this our fifth year. Community members from Missoula donate money and we’re able to purchase the coats and bring them here, and they’re all brand new coats.”

Head Start’s Nicole Burlingame Stead said the event is a high point for these kids who might not have a warm coat for these Montana winters.

“This is a great event that has helped us over the past five years,” said Stead. “It helps families so they don’t have to purchase coats for their children, and it’s also a great community partnership with Missoula Rural Fire. Head Start is a program that serves families that are 100 percent below the poverty level, and we serve 318 children total in five counties.”

Kottwitz said the service he and his fellow firefighters are providing makes the effort worthwhile.

“That’s our MO,” he said. “We like to help people in need, so if we can help keep kids warm in the wintertime then it’s a good feeling for us and for the kids that get the new coats. It’s fun for us to come down here to the schools and see the joy in the faces of the kids that get the new coats.”