Laura Wisneski, Associate Director, Community Programs
How would you describe your role to a child?
I help people in the community give coats to kids that need them.
What does more than a coat mean to you?
For me, the ‘more than a coat’ tagline has really evolved in my time at Operation Warm. When I first started here and I went to my first coat giving event, it meant seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces; the idea that it’s not just about physical warmth, but also about hope, confidence, and all those things we know a coat can provide. Since we’ve grown and we’ve added a lot more awesome people to the team, including some really big thinkers, they have changed what it means to me. Now I see that the coat can also be a catalyst for change in a lot of bigger ways. It can be getting kids to attend fire safety lessons, bringing them into a library for the first time or access to other resources that might not otherwise be available to them.
How would you describe an Operation Warm coat giving event?
Coat giving events really make all the work that we do here so worth it. You go in and you see the smiles on the kid’s faces. You see a community come together for the good of a child. It’s just an all-around awesome experience and the joy you get never wears off, no matter how many events you’ve been to.
Who do you look up to most at Operation Warm?
I look up to a lot of people at OW, but I’ll narrow it down to two: Grace and Willie. Grace [Sica, VP of Corporate Partnerships] is always challenging me to take a step back see the bigger picture. As someone who tends to be a bit impulsive, it’s a quality I really admire. I am always learning from Grace. Dick came to Willie [Bailey, Board of Directors] with the big idea of partnering with fire fighters across the country and Willie really helped us make it happen. The Fire Fighters for Operation Warm program is really near and dear to me and we owe him big time for helping us get it off the ground. He is also just a genuine guy and can always put a smile on your face.
What are your hopes for the future of Operation Warm?
I just hope we keep growing and serving more kids each year. The fact that we are serving our 3 millionth child this year is incredible and I am so fortunate to be part of that, but we are just scratching the surface. I would also love to see the Green Guardian program really take off to the point where all of our coats are made from recycled materials.
What are your interests outside of Operation Warm?
I love to travel and I try to be outside as much as possible; skiing, hiking, boating or really anything that involves water. I also spend time with my family and friends every chance I get.