The Perfect Match is Made in the USA

When you look for your perfect match, find someone who shares your goals and your values.

It’s a perfect match. Thanks to this year’s partnership with SEKRI, a very special nonprofit organization in Kentucky, Operation Warm can empower our team of supporters as we never have before, through our USA-made coat program. More than 20 percent of Operation Warm coats are 100 percent sourced and manufactured in the US. Kids receive new coats and American workers enjoy job security.

The Perfect Match

SEKRI is the facility where all of the Operation Warm American-made coats are produced. The dedicated employees of SEKRI work hard to craft the brand new warm coats to Operation Warm’s exacting standards, from cutting and quilting the fabric, to sewing in the soft fleece lining and adding the sturdy zippers. “We really enjoy the bright colors on the floor, because they represent the children’s coats,” says Cheryl Sanders, SEKRI Director of Rehabilitation Services.

SEKRI has a dedicated director of rehabilitation services because the majority of its workforce is made up of individuals with disabilities. SEKRI is also a nonprofit organization, providing jobs and support services to their workers, and thereby supporting both families and the local economy.

“It has a positive affect for children in two areas,” says Sanders. “Yes, you’re providing a new coat for kids in the winter, but you’re also providing jobs here in America for parents.”

“I think the missions are a perfect match together,” says Lisa McLean, SEKRI Plant Manager. “By matching a child in need who doesn’t have a coat together with someone who doesn’t have a job, you’re helping people who struggle out there, so we are a perfect match. I think we mesh well.

Do What You Love

Operation Warm and SEKRI match in other important ways, from the fact that the employees say we all love being able to make a difference, to the way we fight American poverty.

“Anytime a child is involved, I think you just have to look at their face, and that was the first thing I noticed on the webpage, the face of that child. It made me very proud to be part of that,” McLean says.

“It is actually very rewarding to help a person be successful,” Sanders says.

“It makes me want to work hard to do my best job possible, to make the best products for these kids so they can have a warm reliable coat,” says Barbara Warmouth, SEKRI Operation Warm Sewing Machine Operator. “Just to know that the kids are warm, and that I know that I contributed to that. Yes. It makes me proud.” Warmouth says coming from a “poor” background, she knows what it is like, first hand, to struggle to keep warm in the winter.

Goals and Values

We also share similar goals and values, what we call “pillars”: self-esteem, wellness and the opportunity for education. For children, Operation Warm offers support for self-esteem through bright colors and new materials, support for outdoor play and wellness thanks to study coats with extra warmth, and the opportunity to get to school in the winter when cold temperatures might otherwise prevent it.

For adults, SEKRI offers steady jobs, new skills, and support services, to promote wellness and education. This also give parents and caregivers the means to support their families. “If they want to continue working here, we can do that. If they want to work on furthering their education or developing skills that will help them get a job in other areas of our community, we can do that as well,” says Sanders. “With individuals we service [employees], it helps with their well-being both mentally and physically.”

Both companies employ these support strategies as strong weapons in the fight against poverty in America.

“There is nothing greater than helping people, but helping a child is extra special,” McLean says.

“One of the things at SEKRI that we often say is ‘There are children involved’ in all of our situations, so by helping that parent or that guardian, we are also helping those children,” Sanders says.

The Importance of “Made in America”

“Working here in America keeps all the revenue and everything here in the US,” Warmouth says. “It keeps the families going where they pay their bills and everything.”

“I think it is important to have manufacturing jobs in America for several reasons. The economist can talk about how it strengthens our country and the international trade space in manufacturing, but I think the biggest reason is that manufacturing in the US creates jobs,” Sanders says. “This has a direct impact on our families, which therefore has a direct impact on child poverty.”

“I myself was affected twice by jobs being moved outside the states,” McLean says, “So, it is very personal to me to see them come back in. I think it is important that we support our own country and that we provide jobs. Buy made in the USA.”

Special Messages for Operation Warm Donors and Supporters

Barbara Warmouth: “To all the people that do make our jobs possible we would like to tell them thank you. And, I just want to say thank you to American workforce for providing the jobs to us and for providing this opportunity for these kids to get the jackets they need.”

Cheryl Sanders: “Your donations not only help with coats for these children, they also help with jobs, so the donations are well spent.”

Lisa McLean: “For anyone who has already donated, I want to definitely thank them for their donation and providing the ability for the people that work on this line.”

 

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