Rich Lalley, Director of Organization & Individual Development & Rotary
Rich Lalley helps create and execute our development and strategy with a focus on individual donors, organizations and community programs, especially our special relationship with Rotary Clubs. Prior to joining Operation Warm in 2009, Rich served as President of the Rotary Club of Winnetka-Northfield, IL, and he currently serves Rotary District 6440 as Assistant Governor. Mr. Lalley brings over twenty years of brand marketing and advertising experience to Operation Warm, most recently, as Vice President of Advertising & Brand Management for Discover Financial Services.
How would you describe your role to a child?
“I help kids that don’t have very much feel happy and warm.”
What does #morethanacoat mean to you?
“A couple of Novembers ago I was at a school on the west side of Chicago – which if you don’t know is not a very nice neighborhood, lots of people die of gun violence there. We gave every kid in this school a coat and the kids were, as they always are, happy. The kids were having their pictures taken, and they were posing and dancing around as the music was playing and everybody was just joyous. The teachers were all beaming. At the end of the event, the principle of the school called our team together. She said, ‘I just want you all to know what you just did today. You have no idea. We haven’t heard laughter in this school in two weeks; because two weeks ago we lost one of our scholars to gun violence. You gave his siblings, his cousins, and his friends the hope that comes from knowing that someone cares about them.’ And that’s why it’s more than a coat.”
How would you describe an Operation Warm coat giving event?
“It can be difficult for people to really understand how much joy these children get from getting a brand new piece of outerwear. They love the coats. You know they love them because the kids hug you like crazy and they smile and they laugh. The events are always emotional. They can be moving, but they are always joyous and fun.”
Who do you look up to most at Operation Warm?
“Our founder, Dick Sanford. It’s a beautiful thing that a man who has had as much success as he’s had was moved by a story he read of children cold, coatless, at a bus stop, to then go out and buy fifty-eight coats for children he didn’t know. This story, this random act of kindness – that was really the start of Operation Warm, is amazing.”
What are your hopes for the future of Operation Warm?
“There are so many millions of children in need in this country. It would be wonderful if we could provide a million coats a year.”
What are your interests outside of Operation Warm?
“I spend a lot of time trying to make the world a better place through Rotary. I’m working right now on raising funds for a project in Haiti that’s going to plant five thousand breadfruit trees in the poorest area of the country where the entire breadfruit tree population was wiped out by Hurricane Matthew. More importantly than that, we’re going to outfit a new solar-powered commercial grade food processing facility. This will allow the creation of organically produced, gluten-free, high-end protein breadfruit flour which has an unsatisfied market in the United States. It will not only provide jobs, but it will provide dollars to go into the poorest region of the poorest country in the hemisphere.”