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South Lake Tahoe Fire Department collecting Coats for Kids

Sebastian Foltz
sfoltz@tahoedailytribune.com
The holiday season brings with it an increased risk of house fires. Cooking, Christmas tree and home decorations are typically leading causes.
Sebastian Foltz / Tahoe Daily Tribune |

In an effort to assist with the South Shore’s underserved or disadvantaged youth, the South Lake Tahoe Fire Department will be collecting jackets for their new Coats for Kids Program. Donations can be made at any of the city’s three fire departments.

Clothing drive founder and department fire engineer/medic Kim George described the program as “in its early stages.” She said the department is still looking to find area nonprofits to determine needs and aid in distribution of their collections.

“I’m hoping we can continue this. It’s kind of a trial program,” George said. “I think that there is a need.”

The idea for the program started on a call shortly before Christmas. With temperatures in the 20s, the department responded to an overnight fire in one of the countless nondescript small motel rooms that have been converted into longer-term rentals.

While the family living there was no longer onsite, George noticed three little stockings hanging on the wall.

“It broke my heart that there were three stockings,” she said. “I just felt so bad.”

Thinking of the family that was living in the small space and put out in the cold from the fire, she added, “It occurred to me, I wonder if they had coats.”

She and fire chief Jeff Meston began creating the program shortly after.

Speaking to the need, George said they often encounter underdressed youth while out on duty. “It makes me sad to see a lot of kids that are walking past the fire station wearing only a sweatshirt … We have these encounters a lot.”

That need is evident in findings from the Tahoe Prosperity Center, a nonprofit tasked with researching the economic state of the region.

According to the organization, roughly 60 percent of students in the Lake Tahoe Unified School District are on free or subsidized school lunch programs. Its recent report also found that the average individual income in South Lake Tahoe was below $25,000.

Additionally, South Lake Tahoe school district officials recently reported that roughly 300 of their students qualify as homeless or in substandard or temporary housing.

“The unfortunate issue of our community is that so many people are in need,” Prosperity Center director Heidi Hill Drum said while commending the fire department’s initiative.

“I think it’s wonderful,” she added of the coat drive. “With the cold temperatures, coats are absolutely critical. Anyone who can help should.”

To assist with the fire department’s coats program, contact George by email at kgeorge@cityofslt.us. Donations can be made in person at the departments at any time.

BLOOD DRIVE

The South Lake Tahoe Fire and Rescue will also host a blood drive on Tuesday, Jan. 19, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Fire Station #3. To schedule an appointment, call 530-307-9596 or visit http://www.bloodhero.com. This is the department’s third blood drive since starting the program last year.

“It occurred to me that it’s something we should do,” George said. “Our area sees a lot of trauma.”

Blood donated will go to a Reno-based center with portions of donations to be redistributed to area Barton Health clinics.


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