Chicago Area Church Finds a Perfect Fit with Operation Warm
Denise Rasbid and her husband, Ken, coordinate the many community outreach efforts at The Chapel at Lake Zurich in Greater Chicago, including a mobile food pantry the church hosts several times each year. A chance moment while listening to a Christian radio station made her realize that The Chapel could do even more.
“In the beginning of 2013, I was listening to K-LOVE, and they were featuring Operation Warm as their charity,” Rasbid said. “I thought it was a perfect way to bring coats in to help our food pantry clients. I felt like I was getting a tap on my shoulder, like, ‘you really need to bring this program to the church.’”
The Chapel’s “Coats for Kids” program works in conjunction with Operation Warm and additional partners, which include Rotary Clubs, Fire Fighters, local businesses and other local churches, to bring much-needed coats to children in need from the surrounding community. Since the partnership began six years ago, the program has given out more than 7,000 coats, including 2,000 at its annual giving event in 2017.
Operation Warm was an easy match for The Chapel at Lake Zurich’s outreach efforts. By partnering with the organization, The Chapel has been able to expand and enhance the ways it supports people in need in its community, providing brand new, warm winter coats to children in an area where winters can get particularly harrowing.
“Oh my gosh, winter is brutal in Chicago,” Rasbid said. “Once it sets in, it doesn’t seem to go away until mid-April or sometimes even later. We can have negative temperatures, and it’s humid and damp. It’s rough.”
Although the village of Lake Zurich sits in one of Illinois’ more affluent counties, The Chapel’s community outreach serves people from all over the surrounding Chicagoland area, in places where poverty is a much more prevalent problem.
“I’ve got one boy who just will stick in my mind forever,” Rasbid said. “A couple of years ago at one of our giving events, it was a November day, and he came with three or four siblings who were younger than him, he was a high school freshman. They were waiting outside, and he just had a t-shirt on. He didn’t even have a sweatshirt. He was waiting outside with his arms tucked into his T-shirt.”
The “Coats for Kids” campaign culminates in a large event every fall. Children from the community are invited to come to the church and pick out their Operation Warm coats. The whole event takes one day, but the effort to make it happen is a year-round process, Rasbid said.
“We’re meeting, raising funds, working with different donor organizations, writing grant requests,” Rasbid said. “Our busiest time is between July and November, when we have to work on the actual fundraising, putting together our coat order, reaching out, organizing volunteers, and working out the logistics of the event day. That’s the busy time, but we’re pretty active all year.”
Rasbid also reaches out to women’s shelters, organizations dedicated to helping single mothers get back on their feet, and school districts with large numbers of children who qualify for free lunches – groups that see firsthand the need among kids in their community.
“It’s a pretty broad base of organizations that we work with, and we either send the coats directly to them, or they come and get them at a specific time and get them to the people they work with,” she said.
For The Chapel at Lake Zurich, the partnership with Operation Warm not only fits with the church’s mission to help the less fortunate in the community, but it also ties in with its higher calling.
“The other part of that giving event, that has been important to us, is that we invite leaders of our church, we have a prayer team that comes, and they visit with our guests as they’re waiting,” Rasbid said. “They ask if there’s a way they can pray for them, and they’ll pray for them right there. It’s actively inviting them to prayer.”
Operation Warm is an effective way for religious organizations like The Chapel at Lake Zurich to fulfill their mission to help children in their communities, turning thoughtful donations into brand-new winter coats that kids will be proud to call their own.
Interested in providing brand new coats for kids in your community? We would love for you to join us as an Operation Warm Community Partner!