Hollister Co. Gives Warmth, Hope at Boston School

Outside the Martin Luther King Jr. School the temperature was dropping fast. From almost 50° at the first bell to 40° at lunch, and approaching 30° as the students headed for home. Winter had arrived in Boston in a hurry.

Thankfully, that same day, Wednesday, Dec. 6th, the school’s nearly 500 students had received beautiful brand-new winter coats.

“On Friday, it’s going to snow!” said third-grader Marc, bundled up in his puffy new green coat and a smile that warmed the room. “I like the winter. I like to go outside and play in the snow.”

Getting Marc and his classmates out in the snow, enjoying the season rather than suffering through it, was made possible by a partnership between the clothing retailer, Hollister Co., and Operation Warm, a non-profit organization that provides brand-new coats to children in need across the United States. Now in its third year, the partnership with Hollister has distributed over 73,000 new coats and involved approximately 650 volunteers.

The 50 Hollister employees who volunteered their day with Operation Warm on December 6th came from across the company’s Northeast region.

Hollister employee, Donald, 30, made the six-hour trek from Rochester, New York for the program at the MLK Jr. School.

“In Rochester, and I’m sure it’s the same in Boston, if you don’t have a proper winter coat, you’re risking your life sometimes,” Donald said, adding that he was proud that his employer and fellow employees had made this significant commitment to Operation Warm. “It means a lot to me. It shows that they really care. You can say stuff, but it’s the actions that really matter.”

The school’s principal Grace Coleman-Burns was beaming as she greeted her students as they entered the gymnasium. In ones and twos, they streamed in to meet a Hollister volunteer who would guide them through the process of picking out a new coat, and officially making it their own with a personalized nametag inside.

“The parents were so excited when they heard about this program. They’re so happy that everyone would get a new coat,” Coleman-Burns said. “Families really struggle this time of year so getting a new coat is one more thing off their worry list.”

There is a great need for support, such as with new coats, for the students at MLK Jr. The entire school population qualifies for reduced or free lunch and the student homelessness rate averages 10-12%, Coleman-Burns said. Further, as a neighborhood school, nearly 70% of the students walk to school within a one-mile radius. For the children at the outer reaches of that area, that could add up to 10 miles a week of walking out in the elements.

“And the kids at the bus stops sometimes have to wait,” Coleman-Burns. “Our drivers do a great job and run on time, but it’s Boston traffic and there are always challenges.”

Tori, 22, a Hollister employee at a store in the Boston area, and Alicia, 30, a district manager for Maine and New Hampshire, worked as a team helping students with choosing and sizing their new coats.

“This is the one of the best Christmas presents I could ever get,” Tori said. “To help these kids with these amazing coats and be their instant friends!”

“This adds a lot more meaning to what we do in the stores every day, Alicia added. “These coats give these kids a lot more confidence.”

As if on cue, second-graders and best friends, Cindy and Angely, walked by, arms wrapped around each other, wearing matching new light blue coats.

“We like our new coats so much!” Cindy said. “It’s getting cold outside and these coats are so warm! I could wear this coat for 30 years!”

Operation Warm seeks to inspire hope and empower communities by manufacturing and distributing high-quality, new winter coats children in need throughout the US. The nonprofit works with organizations at a community-level, assisting local advocates to help children receive coats in their own backyard. Operation Warm’s vision is that every child wearing a new winter coat is warm, feels valued, and is empowered to get to school and gain an education.

 

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