Operation Warm
Podcast #48 — Aired December 4, 2014

Can you imagine going through a cold winter with no coat? That’s the reality for some children across the United States, but Operation Warm, a non-profit that provides kids in need with winter coats, is working to change that. Our guest is Operation Warm Executive Director Richard Lalley. He will discuss how Operation Warm brings awareness to the impact poverty has on families and how even one person can make a positive difference in the life of a child.

 

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Rich Lalley
Executive Director, Operation Warm

Rich Lalley is responsible for the overall direction of the organization, which includes: development, communications, organizational strategy and developing strategic partnerships and community programs. Prior to joining Operation Warm in 2009 as VP Development, Mr. Lalley 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. He is a past recipient of Brand Week's Marketer of the Year and Ad Age's Marketing 100 awards. Mr. Lalley is a graduate of Michigan State University, where he studied advertising.

Episode Transcript

Raymond Hansell
And this week on BetterWorldians Radio We are talking with Operation Warm, Executive Director Rich Lalley. Rich is responsible for the overall direction of the organization, which includes: the development, communications, organizational strategy and also developing strategic partnerships and community programs. Prior to joining Operation Warm in 2009 as VP of Development, Rich served as President of the Rotary Club of Winnetka Northfield, Illinois and he currently serves Rotary District 6440 as Assistant Governor. Rich 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. He is a past recipient of Brand Week's Marketer of the Year and Ad Age's Marketing 100 awards. Rich is a graduate of Michigan State University, where he studied advertising.

Gregory Hansell
Hi Rich, this is Greg.

Rich Lalley
Hi Greg.

Gregory Hansell
Its a pleasure to have you join us today on BetterWorldians Radio. Welcome!

Rich Lalley
Thank you, Im glad to be here.

Gregory Hansell
So tell us a little bit about what Operation Warm does.

Rich Lalley
Well, you just said it in a nutshell; we bring happiness and warmth to disadvantaged children through the gift of brand new winter coats. And what that does is it makes a child very, very happy which has an impact on their self-esteem, a positive impact on their self-esteem and it empowers them to attend school and from their perspective, more importantly, to play outside on cold winter days.

Gregory Hansell
How did Operation Warm get started?

Rich Lalley
Operation Warm started in 1998 when a recently retired highly successful business executive, who had sold the last pieces of his large company, read a newspaper story near his suburban Philadelphia home that profiled the number of children in February waiting for a school bus with no winter coats. Well the story upset Dick. Dick Sanford is the gentlemans name, thats our founders name. He was upset that kids could be living so close to his home with no coats that he, that afternoon, went out to the local department store and asked the clerk how many childrens coats they had in stock and was told they had 58 coats. He bought all 58 coats and then working with a connection he had through his Rotary Club that meets in Kennetts Square at Longwoods Gardens in Pennsylvania, he was able to organize the first Operation Warm coat distribution at the school that the children who were profiled in the newspaper story attended. So Dick and a handful of his Rotary and friends from church gave coats to the children that were profiled and a few other children who needed coats in the school. And Dick was blown away by the kids reaction and even more astounded by the parents reaction who couldnt believe that this total stranger would be so kind as to give their child a brand new coat. The next year his Rotary Club went on and did a project and Dick worked on getting coats more efficient way that going to the local department store and buying them. And the next year his Rotary District did a project and before you knew it Dick decided there was a lot of need here and it was something that he felt a calling to do, so he formed a 501C3 non-profit charitable organization and hired somebody that he knew from the non-profit world who knew how to raise money and start the non-profit Operation Warm. That is the story of how we got started.

Gregory Hansell
So I know that Operation Warm only gives away NEW coats. Why do you do that?

Rich Lalley
Well we believe, obviously if a child doesnt have a coat, something thats warm is better than having nothing, but we have a core belief that I think most people would agree with, that all children are valuable, and that we find that when you give a child a brand new coat it says to them, they interpret that as meaning, you think they are valuable, you think they are worthy of something brand new. It has an incredible boast to a lot of these childrens self-esteem. Now it is not a life changing event but it is an impact that makes them feel better about themselves, makes them want to be in school because they dont feel embarrassed that they dont have a coat and ultimately for a short period of time they will perform better in school because of the attitude that they have.

Gregory Hansell
Thats great! I have to imagine that a lot of these kids havent had that kind of a feeling in a while.

Rich Lalley
No, no, it amazing. A lot of people who have even a modest amount dont understand how many people in the United States have nothing, particularly children have nothing. There are over 16 million children living in what the federal government defines as poverty. Half of those are living in what the federal government defines as extreme poverty, less than 12 thousand dollars a year for a household.

Gregory Hansell
I think you are right. Well that is an amazing mission, especially at this time of year as it is getting so cold out there with these lows and everything.

Rich Lalley
I was visiting family, my father-in-law yesterday in the upper peninsula of Michigan, it was 3 degrees! You needed a coat.

Gregory Hansell
So tell us what drew you personally to Operation Warm?

Rich Lalley
Well, its a story that shows that everything in life happens for a reason. I had left the corporate marketing and advertising world in 2003 and had started a small retail business with my wife. That was going fine and as a part of that activity I joined the local Rotary Club as a way of getting connected into the community and finding a way through my business to give back to the community. Everything was hunky-dory until the recession of 2008. We sold home furnishings and not many people were buying home furnishing in the fourth quarter of 2008 when nobody was buying houses and people had lost half of their net worth in the stock market crash. So we ended up closing the business and I didnt have a clue what I was going to do with the rest of my life. I was in the cue to be the president of my local Rotary Club and I went a Rotary conference where incoming presidents are trained and at that conference I met Dick Sanford, the founder of Operation Warm, he was there with a small little exhibit trying to promote Operation Warm as a community service project for Rotary Clubs. From that chance meet, we didnt even really talk, I just picked up a brochure and took it back to my club and its now become one of two signature projects of my Rotary Club. One thing led to another and I joined the staff of Operation Warm and several years later Im now the executive director. So, in things that you think are bad in life they sometimes turn out to be the best thing that could have happened to you.

Gregory Hansell
They say that every door that closes another opens.

Rich Lalley
That is exactly right, that is what happened to me and thats my story as to how I got here. Ive got to tell you, I have had more fun and more enjoyment and sense of satisfaction in the last five years, working as hard as I can to help get more children coats than I did in all of the high-powered TV commercials I ever made.

Gregory Hansell
Thats great, thats great. So I under that when a child receives a coat from Operation Warm his or her name is actually written into the coat. Can you describe the coats and tell us what they are like?

Rich Lalley
Sure our coats are all manufactured to our specifications, that way we are able to choose colors and make sure that our coats come in a wide variety of colors. That is one of the things we are not doing is giving out a uniform. We are familiar with some programs that are done by some governmental units, particularly for new refugee families that come into the United States, often times from South East Asia or from Africa, tropical climates, and coats are given out as part of their survival kits if you will; if you are moving into Minnesota. And often times those coats are all the same drab brown colors. We dont want to do that because you want the kids to feel proud of the coats and love what they have and you do that by having current and popular colors. So we change our color line-up every year. Accept I will say we always have pink and we always have pink and white, and we always have pink and pink; and we always have purple. We always have to have those colors for the girls. But the coats are what are known as Bubble Coats in the garment trade. So they are the puffy kind of coats that you might think they have down in them but they dont actually have down in them because when down gets wet it is not as good of an insulating property. But they are good warm coats made primarily out of nylon, lightweight, waterproof and all have a hood. One of the things that they all have is a tag that says Operation Warm and then it says underneath the branded logo, Made just for you and then a place for the child or teacher to write their name in. We started that a number of years ago and we heard for the first time, but I hear this at least twice or three times every year. You give a child a coat and she will look up at you and say, Thank you so much for my coat, Ive never had anything like this before. Or, When do I have to give it back? It was from hearing, "When do I have to give it back" that we decided to put into the coats, into the name tag area, no this coat was made just for you.

Gregory Hansell
I think that is really special, kids love to have their own things, it means so much to them. For these kids, so many of them dont have anything and the fact that you are doing that is great.

Rich Lalley
We hear stories from parents and teachers. The story of the boy who wants to, doesnt understand why he cant wear his coat in April on a 60 degree day. Or the girl who doesnt want to take her coat off and sleeps in it for a week. Not because it is cold in her house necessarily, only that may be the case, but because she loves it so much.

Gregory Hansell
That is really cute. Thats great. Well you were talking a few minutes ago about your founder and how he was reacting to kids not having a coat waiting for school buses. I have also read that it is not uncommon for children to miss school on cold days because they dont have an adequate coat. Tell the people about that.

Rich Lalley
I never really realized that either until one of my colleagues was talking with some of the staff people of the Oklahoma City schools. I think she was actually speaking to the superintendent. She said, you know Carrie, you guys talk about all the benefits that these have but one of the things that you probably dont realize is how many children dont come to school or they will come to school half the time because two sisters are sharing a coat and when it gets to be single digits mom will keep one home one day and the other home the next day because shes only got one coat. But more often than not moms working and then where is the child? So the child is at home because she cant go out without the coat. But being home alone and eight year old child may not be the safest situation. And there may not be much in the way of food in the refrigerator and one of the other benefits of being in school for children of low income families is that they get one or two increasingly nutritious meals everyday through the school lunch program.

Gregory Hansell
Its so important that people hear about this kind of thing, when they see a coat; its not just something to keep them warm, that this is a matter of survival, this is a matter of their education, and its also a matter of self-worth.

Rich Lalley
The other aspect of childhood poverty thats been getting a little bit of play in the media lately, but is largely unfocused on an unknown, actually a growing problem, is youth homelessness and child homelessness. Its not just teenagers; there are hundreds of thousands of six, seven and eight year old children who are with whatever adult they are with and they dont have a permanent home. That doesnt mean they are sleeping on the streets but they are so called, couch surfing or they are moving from temporary living situation to temporary living situation, to temporary living situation. It is a horrible situation and if a parent and a child or an aunt and a child are in that situation there is no way that that adult is going to be able to provide that child with a brand new coat.

Gregory Hansell
Well tell me, how do children typically react when they get this new coat? You have touched on it a little bit but tell us what that moment is like for them.

Rich Lalley
Well, often times they are looking through all of the different colors and deciding which color they want and trying it on to see, is it big enough, is it too big? And so they are working to get the right size, or to get the right color. One of the things I see frequently which I think is pretty cute is the number of, the pack of girls or the pack of boys that will all want the same color because they want to be part of their own purple club or whatever it happens to be. And those are some of the cutest pictures when they are all in the same, but there is a whole rainbow of colors in the total distribution that is going on, but you have this little pod of four girls showing off their purple on purple coats.

Gregory Hansell
Thats really cute. And what is that moment like when they realize that this is really theirs and this is maybe one of the first things of their own, for themselves. How do they react?

Rich Lalley
Grateful and happy. And that is why I like to say, we bring happiness and warmth to children. And happiness is at the lead of that; it is because it is a brand new coat. You guys certainly know this because of the orientation you have but when people are happy and they have the right attitude in life and they have the right set of values, they are going to be more successful in life.

Gregory Hansell
Absolutely. That is core to our mission here at BetterWorldians. One last question for you before we go to the break, what is it like for a parent, Im sure you have encountered this as well, who cant afford to give their child a coat?

Rich Lalley
It cant be fun. I can say as I was raising my son there were things I wish I could have given him that I wasnt able to give him but it certainly didnt come down to a level of a basic need. I was able to provide all the basic needs and more to my son and Im very thankful for that but it has got to be so frustrating and so difficult to constantly be in the need of support from other people. On the other hand they are extremely grateful that somebody cares enough about their child that they are going to provide this support for them.

Raymond Hansell
We need to take a break right now, but well be talking more with Rich Lalley when we come back. Well also welcome firefighter Joey Leonetti to talk about his departments involvement in supporting Operation Warm. In the meantime, I want to tell you about our Indiegogo Campaign that is now funding at abetterworld.com/kidsgame. A Better World for Kids lets children have fun and make a difference through good deeds & positive thinking both in the online virtual world game & in the real world. Additionally, A Better World for Kids has promised to pledge 10 percent of its post campaign net profits to charities that help children. Please go to abetterworld.com/kidsgame to learn more and to help fund A Better World for Kids. Well be right back!

Raymond Hansell
You are listening to BetterWorldians Radio. We are speaking right now to Operation Warms executive director Rick Lalley. Hi Rich, its a pleasure to speak you. You know Rich, Operation Warm has several different partnerships for distributing coats. Lets talk a little bit about one of those particular partnerships right now. Thats the firefighter program. Can u tell us a little bit about how they came about?

Rich Lalley
Sure, we work with a lot of different grass roots organizations who do what we call the Donor Managed Program where they raise funds locally, identify schools or other organizations serving economically disadvantaged children and then get coats from us to provide to those kids. For quite a few years now we have been working with the fire department in Fairfax County outside of Washington, DC. The gentleman who organizes that and spearheads that whole initiative ended up getting on the board of the International Association of Firefighters a few years back and he introduced us to the IAFF at the national level and we had some conversations and we ended up becoming one of the few number of official charities for the International Association of Firefighters.

Raymond Hansell
So whats the response been like from firefighters that have been involved with Operation Warm?

Rich Lalley
Well its been fantastic and there is another aspect to the program that I want to mention and that is that the IAFF being strong union workers in the United States really wanted to support American jobs and virtually every childs winter coat provided in America is made in Asia including most of our coats. All of our coats were made in Asia until we developed our partnership with the IAFF. As a result of that we are now manufacturing 20% of our coats, 60,000 coats this year are being manufactured in the union facility in the United States with all American made materials. So we are really happy about that aspect of the program and we will have several hundred fire departments all over the country from Alaska to Texas to Massachusetts and all points in-between working with us to provide coats to children in their communities.

Raymond Hansell
What is it about Operation Warm that appeal to firefighters themselves?

Rich Lalley
You know what we have been told is that firefighter are in the community and their whole mission is to serve and protect and they end up in peoples homes. They end up in rich peoples homes and in poor peoples homes when they are doing their job and they see firsthand the plight that economically disadvantaged children have. This is a way for them to get involved, hands-on, knowing that they are making a difference in their community. So, I think that is a big part of what is appealing to the firefighters about the program.

Raymond Hansell
Well, we will be finding out more directly about what appeals to the firefighters because we are going to welcome now, Lieutenant Joey Leonetti, a firefighter with the Wilmington Fire Department in Delaware. Leonetti has been a City firefighter for 13 years and has worked with the local union charitable foundation for about 8 years. Lieutenant, Im looking forward to talking with you today. My father was a Philadelphia city firefighter for 20 years and worked at stations throughout the city back in the 1940s, 50s and 60s so its a profession thats near and dear to my heart. So I guess I can begin buy asking you about your organizations involvement with Operation Warm?

Joey Leonetti
Well, firefighters are no strangers to raising money for the community or helping others. The actual firefighting part of our job is a little part of it. So we have been doing this for a long time. We just recently found out about Operation Warm about two years ago at a conference. I am recently knew to the executive board for our union so we had a conference and we came across the people there and started talking to them and we felt, what a great way to help the community and see the money we raised actually make a dent and help people first hand where you can actually see where it goes. Its been really great.

Raymond Hansell
Have you seen the community that you work out of respond to your involvement in this particular cause as well?

Joey Leonetti
Yeah, we used to raise money for other charities and we still do that, its not that we stopped completely. We would write a check and send money and we would know it was going to a good cause, but when you do this you actually see kids on the street wearing the coat that you handed out a couple of weeks ago. Then it really hits home and their families and everybody who knows about this program, it hits them as well. We got a lot of help from our local businesses once they found out what we were doing because it hits right here, right in the community that we serve in.

Raymond Hansell
What is it about the program that appeals to you personally?

Joey Leonetti
I think like I said, this is something firsthand; you get to hand out these coats and see the impact that it makes on a kids life and how happy it makes them. When you go around with the other firefighters or even anyone who donates money we give the opportunity to come with us on a coat distribution just to see it firsthand because once they see it everybody becomes an ambassador and spreads the word.

Raymond Hansell
It must be amazing to see how the kids react to receiving the new coats? Whats that like?

Joey Leonetti
I cant put it in words. Its kind of selfish I guess that I will never miss a coat drive because raising the money and making the coats happy but when you go out there and hand out a coat to a kid that has never received anything brand new in their life or you let them help sign their name inside of it or pull the tags off for the first time and see them smile and see how happy it makes them it is a feel good moment for you too.

Raymond Hansell
Well, why would you encourage other organizations or other fire departments to get involved in this? Do you feel that this is something that should be encouraged in organizations like firefighters?

Joey Leonetti
Especially with the fire departments because we are out in the community, we are out helping everybody in the worst of times. To be out there and to see the way people live, its not these kids fault; the way they are brought up in poverty sometimes. To help these kids and maybe make and impact on their life or maybe on their brother or sisters life who is a little bit older, who may be headed down the wrong path, and seeing, hey there is still good out there and there are people thinking of them. So, to really impact a community, yeah we can go out there and put fires out, help people who are sick every day; and thats what we do. But to go out there and make a real impact in the community and help somebody have a better life or better chance, thats what it is all about.

Raymond Hansell
So walk me through the experience. You are actually walking into somebodys home with the coat itself? Are you in uniform? How do the kids experience seeing the firefighters in that context?

Joey Leonetti
The way we do it here in Wilmington is we select a community center or a school and we will bring coats there along with fire trucks and guys in uniform. Some guys will wear part of their fire gear and bring plastic helmets for the kids. All kids love to see firemen like that. It will be a big group like that and they come up and we size them out and let them pull the tags off. That is a neat thing for them. We had a kid one time that said he had never had anything new in his life. To hear that is heartbreaking but at the same time it really lets you know you are doing something good for the whole community.

Raymond Hansell
And how do the parents react when they see you involved with helping their kids?

Joey Leonetti
They are just as happy as the kids are. I went out on a run one time and the mother grabbed me and she said: Youre one of those firemen that gave my kid the new coat last year. You know, I couldnt pick her out of a line up because we did a bunch of coats and Im in houses every day. But for her to remember me I know it had to be something special.

Raymond Hansell
Yeah, its got to be impactful and I think it creates a sense of respect in the community for the work that you guys are doing and for the occupation of the fire department because these kids probably see you bigger than life. You walk in the door and give them something that they didnt expect and its got their name on it. So it has to be a great boost for firemen and for the whole firefighters association and the community at large to see you guys in that role because really it is very tangible. I think you are right, my dad was a fireman and he rarely put out fires as he got later in his career. The containment issues were a lot easier but in the earlier days he saved some lives and was involved in that sort of thing. But it is more of an occasional thing as opposed to every day that you are out on a fire. But you bring it right home by actually bringing something to the children that they really need and that they parents want as well so I think it is a terrific partnership between you and also Operation Warm.

Joey Leonetti
That one I told you, I already said it because it is the one that really hit home with me; when you walk in and all of these kids are happy. How many places can you walk in with five or six or ten firemen and kids dont get excited? But the time the kid looked up and said when do I have to give it back? It blew our minds that this kid actually thought he was going to have to give this coat back. He had never received anything new in his life. To explain to him, no this is your coat now and we are going to put your name in it and you get to rip the tags off of it and its your coat for the winter and next winter and however long you can stay in it.

Raymond Hansell
There is a lot of context behind somebody saying that that gift is something that they dont deserve perhaps or why would it be that a stranger would come in and give this to me and I never have to give it back is say an awful lot about the context of that little childs experience. Well, Lieutenant Leonetti, Id like to thank you very much for joining us today on BetterWorldians Radio. Its really been great hearing your stories and hearing the partnership that exist between the fire departments and Operation Warm. I definitely encourage as many of the fire departments and organizations like this to take advantage of this kind of a partnership because it really means a lot to everybody. The firemen I think feel the same kind of partnership just as Joey Leonetti just explained. world. Additionally, A Better World for Kids has promised to pledge 10 percent of its post-campaign net profits to charities that help kids directly like Operation Warm. Go to abetterworld.com/kidsgame to learn more and to help fund A Better World for Kids. Well be right back!

Raymond Hansell
Were back now with Operation Warm Executive Director Rich Lalley. Operation Warm is a nonprofit that brings happiness and warmth to children in need by providing them with brand new winter coats.

Gregory Hansell
Hi Rich, this is Greg again. Im curious, you have touched on this a bit but tell our listeners how a childs life changed by receiving a new coat?

Rich Lalley
Well, on a number of levels. The first and obvious one is that the child has the ability; he is empowered if you will, to be outside on cold winter days. So, they can make a snowman or they can make a snow angle or they can build a snow fort and they can go to school. Very importantly they can go to school on cold winter days. In addition to that because the coats brand new they feel better about themselves and if you feel better about yourself you are going to perform better in school, you are going to perform better in life. Attitude is a key determinant of someones success in life and while this isnt a life changing experience for an entire lifetime it is a life changing experience for a period of time. Its one of, hopefully, a number of positive things that are going to happen to a child to allow them the opportunity to be successful in life.

Gregory Hansell
Do you have any favorite stories of witnessing a child receive his or her coat?

Rich Lalley
Its kind of an odd story. It was the first coat distribution I went to. It was in a small little after school program in the Rogers Park neighborhood in Chicago. A Rotary Club had gotten coats from Operation Warm and was providing coats to every child in this center. The club does a lot of work with this center; the do a lot of literacy programs and help with some capital funding for the center and when they learned about Operation Warm they decided they would provide coats to the children as well. They had a little party with cupcakes. I still have this picture on my phone of this little boy looking up at me offering me a cupcake with his brand new coat on and big smile on his face, but he wanted to give me something back so he offered me this cupcake he had gotten and it stuck with me forever. I always show that picture to people.

Gregory Hansell
I bet that is incredible. So, lets talk about 11 year old Nikolas Toocheck.

Rich Lalley
He happens to be the grandson of our founder. Nikolas was pretty accomplished as a young boy, an 8 and 9 year old race walker. Not a sport a lot of people participate in but he was a regional champion in his boys division race walker and his father is an avid marathon runner. Well Nick is one of these people who have a gift for running. He is happiest when he is running and he loves to run. He came up with the idea a couple of years ago that he wanted to try to, a lot of people run marathons to raise money for causes, its a pretty standard thing these days. He decided he wanted to raise money to help Operation Warm and he came up on his own with this concept of trying to run a marathon on every continent and low and behold his father was able to make that happen and he and his father have run a marathon over a two year period on every continent, including Antarctica. There are some great pictures on our Facebook and website. Nikolas has his own Facebook page of hanging out with penguins. He took a break during his Antarctic marathon and someone asked him, arent you worried about your time? And he said, are you kidding me, how often do you get to hang out with penguins?

Gregory Hansell
Thats amazing! Ill let our social media people know they can pass those pictures around.

Rich Lalley
He has raised about $40,000 through his efforts. Grassroots efforts, he has attracted a couple of national supporters in the running business and we are looking forward to seeing what he has up his sleeve next.

Gregory Hansell
That is amazing, 11 years old.

Rick Lalley
11 years old, he has been on Katie Courics show, he has been on CNN, he has gotten a lot of press coverage which has been fantastic for Operation Warm because he of course is operating as an ambassador if you will for Operation Warm. He is an amazing young man.

Gregory Hansell
Thats really great. So I know that right now is Operation Warms busiest time of year. But I would like you to tell people what your need is once the holiday season passes.

Rich Lalley
Well we distribute the vast majority of our coats between the 15th of September and the 15th or January. And that makes sense because if you have a coat to give you want the child to have the coat as early in the season as possible. But we work year round raising money because all of our coats are brand new as we have said, but unfortunately the factories that we get the coats from, the vendors that we buy the fabrics from for our USA coats, while they may give us a good deal and discount on the materials that we purchase from them, they cant give us 300,000 coats for free. So we have to raise the funds for that. We do a lot of different campaigns; we do a lot of grant writing with foundations and corporations that have foundations. We put together cost marketing programs. We work on developing programs with some of our larger distribution partners that we can then jointly go raise funds for those programs. So we are busy working year round. We have already placed our first order for the 2015 coat season. We have ordered about 65 to 70% of the coats that we will order next year. We need money raised by the first of February which will impact how many coats we will be able to give out next year.

Gregory Hansell
Lets talk a little bit about that. How can people support Operation Warm through donations or volunteering?

Rich Lalley
Well, the best way to support us is with monetary support because the more money we receive the more coats we are able to bring into our system. As I said we are getting them either from factories directly the same factories the large department stores would get there coats from or in the case of the USA made coats we are manufacturing them ourselves because it was less expensive to do it that way. So monetary donations are the best way and there are lots of ways to do that. You can go online to Operationwarm.org and there is a donate button there and you can make a donation that way; you can send us a check; you can see if your company has an employee giving campaign where maybe the company has a foundation that matches employee gifts. If that is the case, that is even a better way to do it. And then a lot of people will get involved in taking leadership at their work places to try to develop a fund raising campaign within their workplace or within their social group. We have even groups of people who summer together in RV camps and have Christmas in July and their Christmas presents to everybody is to provide coats to kids. So there are lots of ways people can raise funds.

Gregory Hansell
I just want to clarify for our listeners; one thing that you are not looking for is new or used coats. That you have these coats manufactured so they are special for these kids.

Rich Lalley
Correct, and it would be impossible with our small staff and the large scale that we operate on. We will distribute coats this year in virtually every state in the United States besides Hawaii. Some years we do some in Northern Florida and some not depending on where funding comes from. But virtually every state in the country will get our coats. So you can imagine with the logistics involved in getting orders from distribution partners and beneficiary organizations all over the country, hundreds and hundreds of those orders, and they all have to be shipped out so we have a central warehouse where the coats are packed six coats to a box so they are the same size and gender. There is really no way we can take coats in and integrate them into that system without significantly increasing the cost of the whole operation. The other thing you asked about volunteering. Really, if somebody wants to get involved in volunteering time the best way to do that is through what we call our donor managed program. So you can volunteer your time to do local fundraising activity. We have all kinds of ideas on our website about how people can raise funds locally. We are happy to set up a fundraising webpage for people so that for your project you can direct people to a specific web link where people can make a donation to your coat program and 100% of those funds will be allocated to providing coats to your program. Then you identify a local a school or youth service agency in your community serving economically disadvantage children and you coordinate all of the local activity just like the firefighters do to get the coats to the kids. Then working with the school to determine if it is going to be a big distribution event or in many cases the school says we would rather do this quietly because we dont have, we arent a title one school, we have 20% or our children that are economically in need; we dont want to single them out publically so we have ways that we can get them a coat quietly maybe directly to their parents during a parent teacher conference.

Gregory Hansell
Thats great, thats so great. So what does it cost to provide a coat for a child in need?

Rich Lalley
It depends upon the program but round figures $20 will provide a brand new coat to a child. These are coats that the front line retail price would be about $49. You might find it on sale for $29 on a black Friday hot deal or even $24 but you wont get it delivered to a child for $20 a coat. If you look at our published financial statement you will see that 4% or the revenue that we bring in is used for administrative overhead and fundraising cost. We are really lean and mean, 96 cents of every revenue dollar we get is used to directly provide a coat to a child.

Gregory Hansell
Thats wonderful. Obviously $20 hardly buys anything today. And it is so excellent that it buys such an incredible coat, brand new, custom for that kid in the color they get to choose.

Rich Lalley
And youve spent $20 and you saved a mother, if the mother were to buy the child a coat, you have saved the mother, $35 or $40 so that is a heck of a return on your investment.

Gregory Hansell
So Operation Warm works with other organizations, we spoke with Lieutenant Leonetti, that leverage your coats to deliver social work, after school programs, educational assistance programs, life skills training, Healthcare offerings and other services. Can you talk about how that works?

Rich Lalley
Well there are lots of organizations that are providing services to economically disadvantaged children and so we work with all of those types of organizations as distribution partners. And then we have funding partners that are interested in providing coats to children in need, either a specific organization or within their community. And then we have some who just support us on a national level and say you figure out where the need is best and we appreciate that type of support as well. So, we are working on the funding side with foundations and corporations and service groups like Rotary Clubs or churches and church groups or firefighters. We have a handful of police departments that work with us. Then we work with distribution partners like schools and youth service agencies and homeless shelters and food pantries and the list goes on.

Gregory Hansell
Thats so great. So, there is one question I like to ask every guest, every week as we wrap up the show and that is, what is your vision for how Operation Warm is helping to make the world a better place.

Rich Lalley
Well I think I have said it. We said it at the opening. I like to say that what we do is bring happiness and warmth to children so that they can go to school and play outside on cold winter days. Its a pretty simple focused message. Our mission and we do it quite well and weve elected to stay focused on that because while we will make 300,000 kids happy this year there are over 16 million children living in poverty in the United States. So we have a long way to go.

Raymond Hansell
An amazing story we are so glad that you have shared it with us today; so often most of us here in this country take for granted things like a warm winter coat. We have learned today from our conversation with you that it is not common for those in need; and that is a big number of people out there that need something just as basic as that. So we have also learned that they gift of a brand new coat personally made for each child, when it is presented to that child really boosts that childs self-esteem and the self-worth of that little boy or girl. And it is also apparently a great experience for the giver. In some cases people like the fireman who have participated and are able to share in the personal connections it is all about giving back to the community that they serve. So, I urge our listeners to please get behind these people in any way that you can, through your donations, and from your heart with your support learn how you can do so by going directly to operationwarm.org. Rich, once again thank you for joining us today on BetterWorldians Radio.

Rich Lalley
Thank you very much, I have enjoyed it.

Raymond Hansell
We have enjoyed it thoroughly; we wish you all the best. Obviously you are a partner with us right now so we are hoping for the best as we participate in working towards some of your same goals in the coming months. Please join us next week on BetterWorldians Radio when well be speaking with Jim LISSkee, CEO of Prison Fellowship. Jim will talk about an important Christmas program called Angel Tree. Before we go, Id like to remind you that our Indiegogo Campaign is now funding at abetterworld.com/kidsgame. A Better World for Kids lets kids have fun and make a difference through good deeds & positive thinking both in the online virtual world game & in the real world. Additionally, A Better World for Kids has promised to pledge 10 percent of its post-campaign net profits to charities that help children. Go to abetterworld.com/kidsgame to learn more and to help fund A Better World for Kids. Until next time, be a BetterWorldian. Thank you again for making the world just a little bit better this week. Please join your hosts Ray, MarySue and Gregory Hansell next Thursday all 11 AM Eastern time, 8 AM Pacific on the Voice America Variety channel. We hope we have inspired you to do one small thing to make a big difference. Join us a BetterWorldians.com to tell us what you have done to change the world. Thanks again for listening to the preceding program brought to you on the Voice America Variety Channel. For more information about our network and to check out additional show hosts and topics of interest please visit voiceamericavariety.com. The Voice America Talk Radio is the worldwide leader in live internet talk radio. Visit voiceamerica.com. The views and ideas expressed on the preceding program are strictly those of the hosts or guest and do not necessarily reflect the view and ideas of the Voice America Talk Radio Network its staff and management.