New Hampshire Fire Fighters Spread the Warmth With Coat Drive

August 14 • 2014

From (08/14/14)

The Portsmouth firefighters union is working with the state union to try to raise $3,400, enough to buy 100 children in the city new winter coats, picked especially for their size and in their favorite color.

Brian Ryll, the vice president of Local 1313, said Wednesday this is the first time the union has participated in this kind of fund-raising campaign to raise money to buy new coats for children in struggling local families.

“Doing something locally we’ll get to see kids in our community walking around with these coats,” Ryll said during an interview at Central Station on Wednesday. “It’s kind of an instant gratification for us and nice to give back to the communities we work in.”
Ryll agreed that just because there are many affluent people who live in the city, that doesn’t mean there are not families struggling to get by. “I think in any community you get those neighborhoods who definitely get those poverty-stricken families and Portsmouth is no different,” Ryll said.

Russ Osgood, the president of Local 1313, said the local firefighters through their fund-raising can also help families who may be struggling to pay their mortgage or rent, and can’t afford a good winter coat.
“We get it every year (during their toy drive). ‘Do you have any coats, do you have any mittens, do you have any hats,’” Osgood said Wednesday. “This is really going to fill that gap.”

Unlike other drives to make sure kids have winter coats, the firefighters will be raising money they will then use to buy new coats from an American company with a union shop, they said.

“The kids get a personalized coat that’s made specifically to fit them … and this is something that’s theirs, this isn’t something that was a hand-me-down from a family member,” Ryll said. “This is a brand new coat that they can call their own.”

Dave Lang, president of the Professional Fire Fighters of New Hampshire, said they are working with Operation Warm, a nonprofit dedicated to providing new winter coats to children in need.

Lang said they decided to do the drive because there’s a “really significant need” in the state.

“The number of kids in the state of New Hampshire at poverty levels, it seems like it’s only getting larger,” Lang said Wednesday.

When you combine the growing poverty level with the state’s “bitter, bitter cold winters,” the need could not be more clear, he said.

The state union is so far working with 19 local unions to raise enough money to buy new coats for 4,000 kids statewide, he said, which is about 10 percent of the children in New Hampshire living at poverty level.

“Firefighters respond to emergencies all the time; this is one of the emergencies we’re going to respond to,” Lang said.

The firefighters are hoping to have the money raised by the end of October so they can have the new coats to the kids before it gets too cold.

To donate to the fund-raising drive, visit the state firefighters union Web site at From there, you can click on the Portsmouth link and donate right to Portsmouth or to other state departments. You can also visit Local 1313’s Web site at to find out more, to donate or to learn about a special fund-raising events at British Beer Co.