The Special Bond Between Rotary Clubs and Operation Warm


There is a special bond between Rotary clubs and Operation Warm. It took root in 1998, and it grows stronger every year.

The Three Reasons Rotary Clubs and Operation Warm Are a Great Fit

 Wordsmyth defines the word “bond” as, “that which binds people emotionally or intellectually, such as a common interest, love, or feelings of loyalty.”

For both Rotarians and Operation Warm, the interest that binds us is the commitment of service to those in need, the love of the positive work we do and our loyalty to each other.

“Rotarians believe in ‘Service Above Self’ and Rotary clubs are always deeply involved in their communities,” says Rich Lalley, Operation Warm’s Development Director and long-standing member of the Rotary Club of Winnetka-Northfield, IL.

“Operation Warm is a perfect project that aligns with Rotarians’ values and interests in being ‘People of Action’ who make a positive difference in the world,” he says. “It is also a perfect project to showcase Rotary clubs in their community, as the media love covering stories about helping children. So, in addition to being a part of community service plans, it should be a highlight of clubs’ public image efforts.”

How the Bond Between Rotary Clubs and Operation Warm Began

When Operation Warm’s founder Dick Sanford bought his first 58 coats in 1998, his local Longwood Rotary Club in Kennett Square PA  assisted him in the first coat giveaway at a nearby school serving children in need. Over the next few years, other clubs in District 7450 joined the effort, helping expand fundraising and assisting with more coat giving programs. In the year 2000, the District Governor set a goal of serving 2,000 children in suburban Philadelphia, and the clubs met the task.

In 2002, a Rotarian from Woodinville WA visited the Longwood Club while in town on business. He heard a report about the club’s project. Impressed, he took the idea back to his club. They have been partnering with Operation Warm every year since.

Rotary Clubs and Operation Warm Positively Impacting Communities

For nearly 20 years, over 280 Rotary Clubs in more than 50 districts have partnered with Operation Warm to conduct service projects that provide brand new winter coats to children in their communities and beyond.

In fact, Rotary clubs have provided brand new winter coats to over 300,000 children, helping Operation Warm reach and impact communities throughout North America.

“There are children right now who would not have been given a gift of warmth, confidence and hope, if it weren’t for our long-standing partnership with Rotary clubs,” Rich says.

The Enduring Partnership Between Rotary Clubs and Operation Warm

rotarian with childFrom large cities to small towns, Rotary clubs annually partner with Operation Warm year after year. “It’s a great program, an easy program for Rotary clubs,” Rich explains. “We’ve spent so many years working closely together, we can customize the experience and make sure each Rotary Operation Warm program is highly successful.”

“We added this dimension to our project three years ago and feel it is now an essential element,” says Rotarian Cheryl Ewing of the Rotary Club of Kitchener. “We were all amazed when we first saw an Operation Warm coat,” she says. “The colors and quality mean that no one can identify them as a gift to a needy child. A child wearing an Operation Warm coat will not stand out.”

How an Operation Warm Rotary Program Works

Each club identifies its own beneficiary organization(s). The club may find the need greatest in a local school or youth services agency. Next, the Rotary club raises funds to support its project. Operation Warm provides the coats, materials, guidance and additional tools and resources.

“We are extremely proud of the special bond between Rotary and Operation Warm,” Rich says. “We look forward to another 20 years.”

To learn more about the special bond between Rotary and Operation Warm, visit our Rotary Partners page. To reach out directly to Rich Lalley, contact him via email


Interested in starting an Operation Warm community service project with your club?

Learn more

Related Articles

How Employee Volunteer Programs are Changing in 2020

How will socially responsible business leaders move forward in 2020 with plans to give back? Smart companies know that the way forward in business is through corporate social responsibility and…

Read More

25 Messages to Say Thanks to Frontline Workers

What do you say to thank a frontline worker, to lift their spirits or let them know that you value their support? Uplifting messages can go a long way to…

Read More

Stay Connected