Operation Warm comes to Wilmington; hundreds of kids get new coats

One by one, children were led by the hand to piles of coats on tables in the gym at Thomas Edison Charter School Tuesday.

They were allowed to pick out a coat just their size from a variety of colors. Once they found one to their liking, it was theirs to keep.

In all, the visit from Operation Warm resulted in several hundred students obtaining new (not used) coats.

"We have students in our school and the schools across the country who walk to school every day without a coat," Thomas Edison Charter School Principal Salome Thomas-EL said. "If we're not fulfilling the basic needs of children, it will be very difficult to get them to learn and succeed in school."

The experience of driving through Kennett Square 20 years ago and seeing children waiting for their school bus without coats in freezing cold led Dick Sanford to take action. He went to a shop, bought "all the coats they had" and found out through local churches which families were in need. 

Operation Warm has since spread across the country.

"All we do is provide something brand new that provides hope and self esteem and an impact on a child that somebody loves me," Sanford said.

More than 70 volunteers from an estimated 30 organizations took part in the coat distribution. Funds raised during a recent camp-out in Newport organized by Harvey Hanna and Associates and its Delaware KIDS Fund foundation made the purchase of the coats possible. The goal was to distribute 1,800 coats to children at Thomas Edison Charter School, Stubbs Elementary School and Shortlidge Academy.

"If we can do whatever we can and pull the community together to put jackets on backs, it literally changes the mindset of the children," the company's Vice President of Marketing said.

Angelina picked out a pink coat- "because it's my favorite color," she said. 

"It is a blessing to have Operation Warm here along with community partners because it sends a message to our children that every child deserves to have someone be crazy about them," Thomas-EL said. "They have shown that today, they're crazy about our children"