The following is a guest post from Starfish Board Member and Columbus Division of Police Deputy Chief Tim Becker.
Many of us have now settled in for another long, cold winter. Some love the winter’s cold, others can’t wait for summer heat, but odds are most of us have the clothing we need to survive the season. This isn’t the case for everyone in our community, which is why I find so much joy in the annual AEP Ohio/Starfish Assignment Coat Drive.
A coat, how can this basic item be so important? First of all, it provides the basic safety factor of warmth and protection against the elements. Safety is one of our most basic needs, especially in a frigid winter climate. This is the third year for the event, and in my eyes, it may be the most important large assignment that Starfish does, not only because it allows officers to literally protect those they serve, but because a new coat can mean so much to a kid.
To those reflecting upon a coat closet at your house that is bursting with options, let me explain what I mean. As mentioned, coats provide basic warmth and protection. Coats are very personal as well, traveling with us wherever we go, which is so important to all those who don’t know where they will lay their head down each evening. But coats can be so much more. A new coat can also be a source of pride. To someone who has always worn hand-me-downs, the opportunity to have a brand-new coat is very exciting. Our community hosts a lot of coat drives that redistribute gently worn used coats, but new coats are rare. A coat with no tears, stains, rips or smells or previous owners can mean more than you know.
In addition to warmth, and pride, it can also boost self-confidence. We all remember how cruel kids can be, and while in a perfect world kids wouldn’t get bullied and teased for their clothing, the world we live in is far from perfect. A new coat removes one more barrier standing between a young child and the opportunity to take advantage of opportunities.
Recently Nicole and I had the opportunity to travel to three locations where coats were distributed. In Linden, a larger event was created outside the fencing surrounding the new recreation center that will be a jewel in this struggling location. At the Far-East recreation center the volunteers had the benefit of access to a building, which proved very helpful in protecting volunteers from the snowfall on the day of the event. Lastly, we traveled to the Wedgewood community on the west side and literally went around to different rentals accompanying the Patrol Officers who were delivering joy. Smiles abounded from the recipients throughout the day, as well as their parents, who all seemed so appreciative.
I would like to personally thank all of the donors and volunteers who make this assignment possible. This event provides much more than the basic needs of warmth, but also joy and gratitude which was on full display during delivery. An assignment of this magnitude cannot be accomplished without a large group of donors and volunteers, both visible and invisible. Regardless of your role, you have my sincerest thanks. I continue to be in awe of your generosity, hard work and compassion. I am extremely proud of your work and excited for the future of the young ones who were assisted.