Warming up for Winter: Supply Chain Redesign Results in Thousands More Coats for Kids
Brett Buckhold has purchased thousands of winter coats in the last ten years.
It started with a phone call at work in 2006. At the time, Brett designed supply chains for large customers.
“A guy I worked with in international sales asked if I could help Operation Warm, an organization that provides new winter coats for children,” Brett said. “He told me I had the right skillset to save them money.”
Brett didn’t know much about Operation Warm then, but he agreed to use his expertise to improve the non-profit organization’s supply chain efficiency. After a little digging, he noticed an opportunity to save them a substantial amount of money.
“They were moving coats via ocean containers from China to a warehouse in Pennsylvania,” Brett said. “As they scheduled different events with different agencies, the coats would then ship out to different parts of the country via ocean or rail. That’s two lanes of transportation.”
Brett, a marketing principal with FedEx, happened to work for a company with one of the most powerful transportation networks in the world.
“That’s the cool thing about being a FedEx team member and supporting Operation Warm,” he said. “We have operations all over, and there is a need for coats all over. I’ve yet to call a station manager and have them say they didn’t want to help.
“I recommended working with the supplier to send small individual shipments of coats to FedEx facilities around the country to be closer to the point of distribution. We started moving the coats to six different sites in the United States. Operation Warm coordinated with local agencies and schools for local pick up. There was just one lane of transportation cost to get the coats to the final destination where the demand was.”
As a result of the financial savings from the new supply chain design, Operation Warm was able to order an additional 20,000 coats per year. The organization provides 300,000 new coats annually to children in need. The coats come in different sizes, colors and styles and have special tags on the inside where volunteers write the names of the children as they receive their coats.
“Some of these children have never had a brand new coat, or anything brand new for that matter,” said Richard Sanford, Jr., development associate at Operation Warm. “It’s something that they don’t have to return, something that will keep them going to school on a cold day rather than freezing all day long. Operation Warm provides a tool to help the child move forward in life by getting to school, being warm and being cared for.”
One in five children in the United States live at or below the poverty line and lack basic necessities like food, clothing, shelter and education, per Operation Warm. Not having something as basic as a winter coat in the cold months can lead to illness, truancy, and various physical and emotional health problems.
“Being able to get to school regardless of the weather means that they are getting adult supervision and getting breakfast and lunch” said Grace Sica, director of corporate partnerships at Operation Warm. “Being able to provide a coat and provide that ability to get to school really ensures good meals, outdoor play, adult supervision. It’s a small tool to help break the cycle of poverty.
Operation Warm relies on donations and volunteers like Brett to complete their mission.
After improving Operation Warm’s supply chain design, Brett was invited to attend a coat distribution event for a more hands-on experience. He said it was this event ten years ago that inspired him to continue working with and supporting the organization.
“I remember writing a child’s name in his new jacket,” Brett said. “He looked at me and had the biggest smile on his face. It was pretty powerful.”
Brett recently organized an Operation Warm event in Memphis at Newberry Elementary School. All 450 students received a brand new coat, many of which were purchased through Brett’s personal contribution. He also recruited 50 FedEx volunteers to help distribute the coats and staff the event as part of the company’s FedEx Cares global giving platform.
Brett continues to support Operation Warm with his time and has paid for thousands of coats for children in need.
“I’ll continue doing this as long as I can,” he said. “Operation Warm lives and dies by donations, and it’s important to help in any way I can. At the end of the day, it’s about bringing joy to so many kids who need it.
For information on how you can help, visit https://www.operationwarm.org/.
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