ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Hundreds of Rockford elementary students will be a a little warmer this winter thanks to the “Warm Homes, Warmer Hearts” program.

The initiative between Nicor Gas and national nonprofit Operation Warm gave out 500 jackets to students at Washington Elementary school. As part of Nicor Gas’ Energy Efficiency Program, the company pledged to donate a jacket for every smart thermostat rebate they processed in October.

About 60% of Washington Elementary students come from low-income backgrounds. Providing a free coat can better help students succeed in school, says Principal Angelique Malone.

“Students can’t reach their maximum potential if some of those lower level needs are met. Right, like food and clothing and shelter,” said Malone.

The students eyes lit up as they tried on their new jackets, and Malone says support like Nicor’s is critical for maximizing student success.

“To have others come in and to support the work that we’re doing, not necessarily academically, but making sure that needs and resources are being funneled into the schools, like it takes a village,” said Malone. “So this is just a true example of the village coming together.”

Washington Elementary isn’t the only school getting coats, either. Nicor says they plan to give out 1600 jackets to students across Illinois.