WSCFF Members Give Back! Operation Warm, a Huge Success
Dick Sanford, the passionate founder and chairman of Operation Warm, often explains the enormous impact that 300,000 IAFF firefighters could have on children in poverty. "If each firefighter raised enough to cover ten children--just $340 dollars--we could serve three million children." A former U.S. Marine and retired CEO, Sanford remains energized by just how attainable it could be. "It breaks down into nothing less than a dollar a day, a beer a week."
Over 17 million children live in poverty in the USA and Canada. Annually, Operation Warm puts brand new winter coats on the backs of roughly 350,000 children. This year, nearly 20% of them will be provided, thanks to members of the IAFF.
The numbers intrigued Kelly Fox, President of the Washington State Council of Fire Fighters (WSCFF). "It's fascinating to think about the potential." In 2013, Operation Warm launched production of 100% American-made coats exclusively for its partnership with the IAFF, and in 2014, brought the growing business to a union shop affiliated with Workers United. "Supporting union-made products is a priority of the WSCFF," explained Fox, "but this gives our union a special opportunity to truly make an impact, not only on a child's life but on the creation of jobs for Americans at a living wage." Ramping up American coat production to the level Sanford described could put thousands of Americans back to work and keep in business the USA vendors supplying components and materials.
Since Operation Warm was brought before the delegates at the 2012 IAFF General Convention in Philadelphia, more locals are opting to support the program each year. Twenty-five locals provided 17,000 coats in 2012, in 2013 that number jumped to 150 locals providing 35,000 coats and currently, Operation Warm is forecasting 250 locals providing 60,000 coats in 2014.
In 2013, 25 IAFF locals from Washington participated in Operation Warm’s initiative – the largest amount of participation of any state. Raising almost $130,000, Washington firefighters distributed coats to over 4,000 local children. One thousand of those coats were funded by the partnership between 99.9 FM KISW “The Rock of Seattle” and the WSCFF. Other monetary support includes $20,000 from the Gary E. Milgard Foundation and $10,000 from the Norcliffe Foundation.
Fast forward one year: 40 WSCFF locals are participating. With a year under their belt, Washington locals are increasing their fundraising efforts – planning more events, attending more community gatherings, and reaching out to more businesses. With the continued support from KISW and the Milgard Foundation, Washington leads the way for other participating states. Passionate about the children in their communities, Washington firefighters are dedicated to giving back. They are living proof that “Superheroes” exist, and every child they’ve reached can attest to that.