What Is It Like at an Operation Warm Coat Distribution Event?
When you have 2,000 brand new winter coats to distribute in less than three hours, things can get interesting. Follow our adventures at Operation Brotherly Love and learn why tall volunteers are an asset.
Brotherly Love in Action
Operation Warm was excited to be part of the Seventh Annual Operation Brotherly Love this past Saturday. The mission was to provide a happy holiday to families in need in the Philadelphia region. There are coat distributions that take place all over the country, but this event was one of the largest events this year.
Our volunteers arrived early to set up, unpack and get thousands of colorful brand new winter coats ready for the kids. Trying to stack them up on the tables by size and gender was a challenge. The coats are so warm and fluffy, that it didn’t take long for the towers to grow higher than many of the helpers. We did notice that at least one of our volunteers couldn’t help but hug the coats close, but whether this was for comfort, to give her blessing before they went out into the world, or because she knew how precious these coats would be to the families who received them, we couldn’t say.
Setting up the Sizing Stations
Because there would be so many children to serve, we set up three separate sizing stations, manned with dedicated volunteers and all of the various sizes of boys and girls coats. These were the same type of coats that the children would be getting later in the day. We simply pulled these sizes from the regular stock of coats. This allowed the children to try on the different sizes of the actual coats, with mom, dad or a caregiver looking carefully on. We wanted to make sure that every child got a brand new coat that fit perfectly.
The next step after the sizing station was a visit to the coat distribution station, where children could go to pick up their very own coat to keep. Volunteers at this station said there are usually a lot of smiles and sometimes a tear or two. When pressed, our helpers admited that it is not only the recipients who get emotional.
Three Things We Noticed
We noticed a few things at the sizing station. Three of them left a lasting impact. The kids didn’t want to take off the coats we used for sizing. We had to explain that there were so many more colors and styles, and our volunteers at the distribution area would help them get their very own coat to wear for the whole winter.
Another thing we noticed while helping the kids find their size was the fact that both the kids and their parents were asking for coats that were one or two sizes too big. It wasn’t a matter of style, but simple practicality. A larger coat might last an extra year or two and bring the families a sense of relief, knowing that they would have the coat for as long as possible.
The third thing that we noticed is that many of the kids consulted their parents and caregivers when talking about the colors they hoped to get. At first, we thought this was just to get a second opinion on style, but the real reason was revealed when we talked with the families. For example, an aunt talked about how all the kids would take good care of the coats, since they would sure to be passed down to other relatives in the family. It is just natural for these families to think this way. “New” is not a word they are used to hearing. Of course, our wish is that every child in need to get her or her own brand new winter coat.
The Impact of New Operation Warm Coats
As you probably know by now, the Operation Warm mission is to provide brand new winter coats, not used coats, for so many reasons. A brand new winter coat:
- Builds self esteem and confidence
- Inspires a child’s pride and joy
- Raises peer acceptance
- Conveys a sense that the child is valued
- Is often the only new thing a child in poverty receives.
This is not the complete list of why a brand new winter coat is so important to these families. In fact, we learn something new each time we interact with recipients of the coats. One thing that doesn’t often get mentioned is the fact that a single coat impacts not only the child and his family, but the community at large. Children who grow up feeling valued, who have the opportunity to go to school and be educated, and who fit in with their peers, grow up to be teens and adults who make a positive difference in the world.
You Are Making a Difference
Sometimes it is hard to envision the real impact a donation for good makes. You write a check or click on an online donation form, and maybe you wonder what happens next. Let us assure you that when you donate to Operation Warm, you are making a real difference, a tangible difference, in many lives. Whether you donate, sponsor a program, spread the word about Operation Warm or support us in any way, you are making a difference to children in poverty.
We invite you to see that difference for yourself. Follow us on social media channels, such as Facebook and Twitter. You’ll get a chance to see photos of some of the kids that we serve and hear their stories.
Google “Operation Warm” and read the news about the various coat distributions that take place across the country. Look for a coat distribution event in your area and offer to volunteer. Start your own donor managed program and designate the exact group of kids you feel most led to help. These are just some of the opportunities that allow you to see that your donation really is More Than a Coat.
Our time at Operation Brotherly Love reinforced all of the reasons we do this. The experience will continue to inspire us in our mission to reach every child in poverty who needs a gift of warmth. While servicing 2,000 kids seems like a lot (especially when you are in the middle of the coat distribution), it is just a small sampling of the 16 million children who live in poverty in the US right now.
Every coat distribution is different, but the gift of warmth is universal. Thank you for all that you do to make an impact on the lives of so many kids, families and communities.
–The Operation Warm Team