One million coats have been given to one million children nationwide by Operation Warm. The millionth coat was given to second grader Imani Oliveras, who received a new jacket at a celebration in Philadelphia on Monday.
“I love my new coat because it’s pink and pretty,” said Oliveras.
The event was held at the Salvation Army’s Kroc Center, where partners, sponsors and families gathered to share in Operation Warm’s success.
What started out in small Philadelphia suburb Kennett square in 1998 now operates in 33 states. The group distributes brand new coats with a retail value at over $40 to children in need. Most of the children that they serve have never worn a new coat until Operation Warm.
“You never set an ultimate goal, you just keep going,” said Operation Warm founder Richard Sanford.
Sanford was inspired to start the program after seeing kids without jackets throughout the winter. He says the group has given over 250,000 new coats to children in Pennsylvania alone.
La Comunidad, a non-profit in Kennett Square, was the first to receive coats from Operation Warm during the early days of the program. Margarita Mirkil, executive director of La Comunidad Hispana, says that families start asking about coats as early as August and are always thinking ahead for their children.
“It’s these small instrumental pieces – a coat – that helps families so much,” said Mirkil.
Major Hester Dixon, director of operations for the Salvation Army, has been a part of Operation Warm since last year. With 10 community locations in the area, Dixon organizes shipments of jackets to each center which includes local clinics, YMCA’s and church groups.
“It’s a lot of networking to get these coats into the right hands,” said Dixon. “It’s exciting and rewarding, to have a hand in giving kids something they really need.”
The three children who received coats at Monday’s event were third grader Shianne Jones, second grader Imani Oliveras and first grader Aljana Skinner.
“For struggling parents, this helps a lot,” said parent Lisa Jones. “It brings up our spirits.”
The event initiated the group’s latest fundraising campaign entitled, ‘The NEXT Million.’ Through the campaign, Operation Warm hopes to raise one million dollars to help with purchasing and production of more coats.
“We just served our one millionth coat,” said Sanford, “and we will keep this program going to two million and beyond.”