2017-12-14 / Front Page

To the Rescue

Coat Drive for Pell Students
By Brooke Constance White


Newport firefighter Dan Oakley along with Newport Community Policing Officer Brett Misturado, are gathering up the nearly 200 children's coats that have been collected in just one week in response to the inter-department challenge to help children in need of winter coats at Pell Elementary School. The coat drive came just in time as the cold weather arrived. While the majority of the coats were donated by each department's staff, the Newport Police Department did receive a donation of 14 new jackets from a woman who dropped by. The coat drive is seeking coats in older children's sizes. Please drop off donations at the police or fire stations. Coats will be distributed beginning on Thursday, Dec. 14. (Photos by Jen Carter) Newport firefighter Dan Oakley along with Newport Community Policing Officer Brett Misturado, are gathering up the nearly 200 children's coats that have been collected in just one week in response to the inter-department challenge to help children in need of winter coats at Pell Elementary School. The coat drive came just in time as the cold weather arrived. While the majority of the coats were donated by each department's staff, the Newport Police Department did receive a donation of 14 new jackets from a woman who dropped by. The coat drive is seeking coats in older children's sizes. Please drop off donations at the police or fire stations. Coats will be distributed beginning on Thursday, Dec. 14. (Photos by Jen Carter) What started out as a simple conversation about a need for winter coats for Pell Elementary School students has taken on a life of its own. During the week of Dec. 3, that dialogue grew into a full-fledged coat drive and a friendly competition between Newport’s police and fire departments to see which group could collect the most coats.

It all began when Newport Police Department Officer Brett Misturado noticed on a recent chilly morning that students were walking in the Pell school doors without warm winter jackets. Misturado, who has been with NPD for years, recently began working with the department’s community policing unit that promotes police community partnerships and occasionally works school security. He learned from Pell Elementary School Family Services Manager Rebekah Rosen-Gomez that Pell students in need typically receive winter coats donated from faculty and staff. This winter, the school received ample donations of warm hats and gloves but were short on winter coats.

“I thought that it was a good opportunity for us to help out,” Misturado said. “It really just breaks your heart to see children walking into school without an adequate winter coat.”

Rosen-Gomez said that making sure all Pell students have winter jackets is an issue every year but that most years they have a stockpile of donated coats to draw from and often have leftovers for the next winter. This year, they didn’t have any jackets to offer to students.

“We have more than 900 students here at Pell and have already had lots of kids and parents asking us for coats already this year,” she said. “This is the kind of community policing we need and I give the [police and fire] departments all the credit because it’s in the spirit of competition but also in the spirit of giving.”

So far the police department has already collected enough winter jackets to overflow the extra large plastic bin that Misturado brought in late last week.

Fire Chief Brian Dugan said the department, which puts on food drives and other charitable events periodically, is always looking for ways to give back to the community.

“When one of the police officers contacted me and laid down the gauntlet and challenged us to a coat drive, we were more than happy to participate,” Dugan said. “So far we’ve got a few boxes full of coats and we’ve still got another few days so I think we’re in good shape.”

The departments plan to collect coats until Friday, Dec. 15, and will drop the donations off at the school. But Misturado said there’s a good chance they will continue to collect after this drive is completed.

“I feel like it’s more important to address the immediate problem sooner than later,” he said, “and then we can always continue to get more if other schools need winter coats and maybe do it on an as-needed basis.”

Having grown up in the south end of Fall River, Mass., Misturado said he was quite poor as a kid and was in a similar situation to many of Newport’s students who are in need.

“I’ve been there so I’d like to help out as much as I can,” he said. “It’s now our turn to step up to the plate and help out where we can.”

Sgt. Joseph Carroll, Public Affairs Officer for NPD, said he was more than happy to sponsor a coat drive when Misturado brought up the idea.

“When there’s a need in the community, we do whatever we can to offer assistance,” Carroll said. “It’s a win-win no matter how you look at it. Whatever we can do and however many coats we can give them is fantastic and will make a huge difference.”

To donate, drop off new or like-new winter jackets for boys and girls sizes 4T and up at NPD headquarters at 120 Broadway, or NFD headquarters at 21 West Marlborough Street.

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