You can grow your community service programs, even in the midst of a pandemic. Our Community Hero spotlight features the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, Maryland, now in their third year as an Operation Warm partner. With a robust COVID-19 contingency plan, Pratt is well on its way to providing brand new coats to families with eight holiday events planned for December 2020.
Cornelia Beckett, Program Specialist at Pratt got started early and shares her advice. “We are all operating in a new way, but I am hopeful that the changes we are putting in place will allow us to successfully and safely, pull off another great year,” she says. “Even with the challenges we face, I think there are ways we can adapt. What hasn’t changed is people’s need for a warm coat. That is still going to be a need. Kids are going to grow. It is going to get cold.”
Your Greatest Impact Can Happen This Year
“We have brought Operation Warm to every quadrant of Baltimore,” she says. In addition to providing much-needed warmth through brand new coats, the Community Hero program provides a way to reach those who could most use other services but are least aware of them. “It establishes trust, and it establishes awareness. The coat program is a very strong way of establishing and maintaining our center as a community hub for meeting people’s needs.”
“Certainly, and undeniably with COVID-19, unemployment is up,” she says. “This year, the need is higher than ever, so the need for a new coat is higher than ever.”
“I am specifically scheduling the programs for December, because for some of our children, a new coat may be the only holiday gift. It is something not just practical, but special as well. And that is important to me, that we can do that.”
Cornelia has advice for other Operation Warm Community Heroes. “We will figure out what works and doesn’t as we go along, but with the gift of time and good humor and flexibility, we will find a way to get those coats out.”
COVID-19 Contingency Planning Advice
Get Started Now
“Use the gift of time,” Cornelia says. There are still many months ahead to fine tune the details of your program.
Use a Curbside Service Model
“The coats themselves will be distributed curbside, for safety, for ease and for visibility,” Cornelia says. She points out this model has worked well with other organizations distributing for need, such as food banks and schools.
Allow More Time for Your Event
“In the past I found two hours is the most successful amount of time to serve about 150 recipients—this year I am doubling it to four hours, so we don’t have a crush of people in a short amount of time.”
Get Help from Your Community
“Leveraging community relationships was key to our past successes,” Cornelia says. “This year, it is more important than ever to establish a strong culture of community.” From community leaders to volunteers, everyone can plan a part to solve any challenges that arise.
Interested in providing brand new coats for kids in your community? We would love for you to join us as an Operation Warm Community Partner!