LEWISTON, Maine — As an employee of the Coats for Kids Foundation of Operation Warm based in Chadd’s Ford, Pa., which provides new winter coats to children in need across the United States, Paul Daigle took it upon himself to organize a fundraiser that would make it possible for coats to be given to the students in need at the Longley School in Lewiston.
Daigle lived in Abbot and attended schools in Guilford during his preteen and teenage years, so he knows firsthand what a Maine winter is like.
Daigle said he had been making calls and researching a grant to fund coats for students at Piscatquis Community Elementary School, where he once was a student. In his conversation with Dannette Ellis, a volunteer at Aid for Kids, she mentioned that the Longley School had many students in need. Aid for Kids is an international adoption agency founded by Dawn Degenhardt and based in Houlton, which has partnered with Operation Warm to distribute Operation Warm coats in Maine. That conversation shifted Daigle’s focus from the Guilford school to the Lewiston school, though he still plans to pursue the grant to provide coats for the Guilford school.
Daigle, a self-defined “idea man,” started thinking about how to make coats happen at the Longley School.
“I had always wanted to make a trip across the United States,” he said. But life kept intervening — college, graduate school, jobs, marriage — and he never had the opportunity to travel from the East Coast to the West Coast. Then, a friend decided to go to California and asked Daigle to help with the move by driving across country with him. That recent trip prompted Daigle to create a fundraiser by asking for $3 per mile donations.
“We work with several coat factories, both domestic and overseas,” he said. “We have 12 colors and styles. We want kids to feel proud they have a coat.”
The coats come in a range of sizes and gender appropriate colors.
School principal Linda St. Andre said Operation Warm will provide approximately 30 coats for students at the Longley School. School officials will distribute the coats, she said.
To make a contribution, go to www.operationwarm.org/crossingthecountry. All funds will go to coats for the Lewiston school.