History of Operation Warm

Operation Warm began in 1998 when retired business man Dick Sanford, a member of the Rotary Club of Longwood, District 7450, Kennett Square PA, read a newspaper story about children waiting for a school bus on a cold February morning without adequate winter clothing.  Moved by the story, Dick went to a local store and purchased every children’s coat they had, and arranged through his Rotary Club to personally give the coats to children in need at the local school.  This directly led to a club project the next year, and a District wide project in 2000. 

Dick was incredibly moved by the impact the coats had on children and their families, and decided he wanted to do more.  So, like happens with many a Rotary Club project (e.g. ShelterBox), he formed a non-profit company (a 501(c)(3) public charity) called Operation Warm and began building the program.  Naturally, District 7450 Rotarians were among the early supporters, but in order to grow, support was sought from many partners, including private and corporate foundations, governmental agencies, churches and many caring individuals.  By the time this season’s coat distributions are complete, Operation Warm will have provided the gift of a new winter coat to over 1.4 million children.

This year, we will provide coats to 200,000 children, many with the help of Rotary Clubs and Rotarians.  Over 100 clubs have joined our mission this year, including the clubs of District 6650, and their combined efforts will provides new coats to approximately 20,000 children, or about 10% of our total impact.  We also work with many other groups, in Ohio and throughout the U.S.  For example, Cleveland Coats for Kids gets most of their new coats from us.  The state government of Ohio has funded coats for that program and coats for children in the greater Dayton community.  Many International Association of Fire Fighters locals, in Ohio and throughout the US, help fund coats and organize coat distributions in their community.  We work with Housing Authorities in Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia and Denver.  We are truly blessed by the large number of partners we have in our mission.