By Kristen Ockenfels, Rotary Club of North Liberty, Iowa, USA
Rotary District 6000 started working with Operation Warm in 2014 as a district project. Operation Warm, founded by Rotarian Dick Sanford from the Rotary Club of Longwood in Pennsylvania, USA, to provide brand new coats to children in need across the United States. That first year, our district aimed to raise funds to purchase 4,000 coats, one for each of the 4,000 members in our district. Thanks to the generous support of every Rotary club in the district, we were able to provide almost 9,000 coats to the children of Iowa! The project went extremely well, but the need for coats in our region is so great that our district was able to provide another 9,000 coats the second year!
The range in coat styles and colors is one of the reasons we partner with Operation Warm. You can’t look across a playground and pick out which children have received coats. Many families in our area simply can’t afford a new coat for their children and turn to used clothing stores where selection options are limited due to the overwhelming need. Thankfully, Operation Warm offers coats from sizes 3T-XXL. This allowed us to provide coats to the junior high and high school age kids, as well as the smallest pre-school age kids.
Poverty is often hidden, and simply facing an Iowa winter without a coat is terrifying. As we spent weeks presenting this project at club meetings around the district, it became quite clear that many people thought coats were readily available to children in their communities. School superintendents, principals, teachers and counselors all stood up week after week to explain the need and the obstacles faced by families and children.
The initiative has become a signature project in our district. Rotary clubs raise funds and work with their local schools and community centers to put together a list of requested sizes. These lists are then combined at the district level. If a club raised funds for 100 coats, Operation Warm sends 100 coats for the club to distribute in their area.
In two years, almost 18,000 children across our district are proud owners of new, warm coats. What better reasons to be a Rotarian and work with Operation Warm than helping 18,000 children in your own community?