Operation Warm Provides Shoes to Chicago Youth for Their School Readiness Campaign

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Ambitions for a successful school year may be high, but so are the costs of back-to-school supplies. In its 15th annual back-to-school survey, Deloitte, an international tax advisory firm, found that parents and guardians spent about 27% more on school supplies than in 2019. But Operation Warm, a national organization in nonprofit that has provided coats to children in need for 23 years, will work to provide shoes for students.

Grace Sica, executive director of Operation Warm, said the nonprofit’s goal is to donate 600,000 coats to children in need and 100,000 pairs of athletic shoes.

Operation Warm is not providing coats directly to families, but will be accepting online donations through September 15.

The shoes and coats are donated directly to service organizations that can identify children in need, according to Sica. The essentials are then distributed through partners such as Chicago Public Schools, the Chicago Housing Authority and the Chicago Park District.

“Just two years ago we decided to expand into shoes because we kept hearing from the kids themselves saying that shoes were an item they didn’t have access to,” said If it. “That was really the origin of saying, ‘Oh man, we have two really important things that can get a kid ready for the school year,’ that was the birth of the school readiness program.”

Donations can be made at operationwarm.org. For the school readiness program, $45 provides a brand new coat and a pair of athletic shoes.

“I think everyone knows about inflation, but for low-income families with school-aged kids, it presents a lot of tough choices like, ‘Do you pay the electric bill or buy yourself a new one? coat? “, Sica said. “Our hope is that we can alleviate with our community and with our supporters any of these concerns.”

In July 2021, Operation Warm partnered with the Chicago Housing Authority and the Chicago Park District for a “Summer Kicks” giveaway at Fosco Park Fieldhouse for children ages 3-10.

“We really try to think about what we’re doing not just to meet a physical need, but also to run our program in a stigma-free way.”

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Richard Lalley, partnerships director for the Chicg-o branch of Operation Warm, said the city is gearing up for several of its in-person events taking place this fall.

“We’re having our huge event at the end of October,” Lalley said. “This year it will be October 22 when 5,000 coats will be donated to children in one day.”

Operation Warm will be partnering with the Chicago Public Housing Authority for this event. About 40 non-profit and for-profit government organizations, local libraries, health and internet service providers will meet at the Isadore and Sadie Dorin Forum at the University of Chicago.

Lalley hopes more than 50,000 coats will be distributed to young people in Chicago between late August and January 2023.

What Lalley is most looking forward to, however, is being able to implement the nonprofit’s slogan “more than a coat.”

“We take all that energy from parents coming in to get coats for their kids and have a lot more resources there,” Lalley said. “Whenever we can, we look for opportunities to leverage the energy. So when a mum or dad comes to pick up a coat, they also get other services that they may not be able to. running.”

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