Operation Warm Aims to Provide 36,000 Brand New Coats to Philadelphia Kids in Need this Fall


With temperatures soaring high into the 90’s for most of the summer in Philadelphia, it can be tough to remember how unbearably cold last winter was. But according to U.S. Climate Data, the average low temperature last January was 26 degrees.

Temperatures change, seasons come and go, but there are a few things that have remained the same over the years, one of which is Philadelphia’s poverty rate. In the past 10 years, Philadelphia’s poverty rate has stayed consistent around 25%.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, a family of four that makes less than $22,811 a year, or $1,900, a month is considered to be living in poverty. For a family living in poverty, necessities like housing, heat, food and healthcare can quickly deplete their monthly income. When struggling to provide those essentials, items like warm winter clothing get moved to the bottom of the list. This is where Operation Warm comes in.

Operation Warm’s CEO and Founder, Dick Sanford, was driving through a Philadelphia suburb in 1998 when he noticed kids waiting at a bus stop, in the freezing cold, without winter coats. Sanford, bewildered by this sight, drove to the nearest retail shop, purchased all the remaining kids coats in stock and handed them out at a local, low-income elementary school.

In 2018, Operation Warm is celebrating its 20 year anniversary. Providing warmth, confidence and hope by gifting nearly three million brand new coats during their first twenty years of service is just the start of the organization’s impact. Operation Warm’s 20 year anniversary plans include connecting families to community resources, partnering with libraries to increase membership, producing coat giving events for employees of corporate partners, and providing environmentally sustainable coats.

Operation Warm believes a brand new coat offers a child physical and emotional warmth, confidence to socialize and succeed, and hope of a brighter future.  While other organizations collect used coats, Operation Warm works with manufacturers to create our own line of carefully crafted winter coats. By making their own coats, the organization controls the quality and ensures these brand new winter coats become a daily source of pride and joy for children, who rarely feel the emotion associated with receiving a gift that was made just for them.

“I believe it’s our personal responsibility to help others,” explains Mr. Sanford. “No child should be left out in the cold or be forced to walk to school in freezing temperatures without a coat. Operation Warm coats truly impact the lives of thousands of children around the holidays.”

And while Operation Warm has expanded their efforts across North America, they still call Philadelphia home.

Their headquarters is based out of Chester County and they continue to help kids in need across the Delaware Valley. Operation Warm has served hundreds of thousands of children in Philadelphia, growing from 334 in 2002 to 18,246 last year.

In 2017, Operation Warm worked with over 90 partner organizations in Philadelphia to fundraise and provide brand new coats around the city. Those partner organizations include Bryant Baptist Church, Horizon Services, Inc., Folcroft Boro Police Department and the Philadelphia Fire Fighters and Paramedics. Additionally, Operation Warm has provided thousands of coats at the Operation Brotherly Love Holiday Carnival, hosted by its longtime partner Wawa, for nearly a decade.

Eddystone Elementary School teacher, Eva Signor, recalls the Operation Warm coat giving event as one of her students ‘best days.’

“The kids and staff were so grateful to receive new coats,” Signor says. “One of my kindergarten students shouted out, ‘this is the best day ever!’”

In 2018, Operation Warm has debuted several new initiatives, including the Green Guardian™ sustainable coat made from recycled plastics, the Volunteer Brigade and the Operation Warm Library Project. With the help of new donors, partners and programs, Operation Warm strives to double its impact and provide 36,000 brand new coats to Philadelphia children in need.

Works Cited

U.S. Climate Data – https://www.usclimatedata.com/

Pews Charitable Trusts – http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/reports/2017/11/philadelphias-poor

Census: Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States – https://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2016/cb16-158.html

Tour Poverty USA – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g3iRRsoqoMI

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