Richard Sanford founded Operation Warm in 1998, after he took it upon himself to buy 58 new coats for children he saw standing at a bus stop one morning in freezing temperatures. Eighteen years later, he’s still just as passionate about giving back. Operation Warm now has 15 employees with thousands of donors and volunteers in nearly every state. So far, that amounts to over 1.7 million new coats.
“It’s incomprehensible to me that we have children in our country unable to attend school because they don’t have a warm coat,” he says. “By providing a new winter coat to these children, we’re addressing an immediate need. The coats alleviate a major financial burden for parents and keep children in school, where they’re getting an education, a warm meal and heated shelter five days out of the week.”
A successful businessman and entrepreneur, Sanford founded Intelligent Electronics, a $3.7 billion wholesale distributor of micro-products and services. After its sale in 1998, he started the Sanford Foundation to support disadvantaged children, creating the first charter school in Pennsylvania. Today, it operates as the Chester County Family Academy in West Chester. He has also served for many years on the board of the Brandywine Conservancy & Museum of Art.
Sanford—74 years young—still arrives at the office every day and strives to find new ways to drive Operation Warm forward. He attends winter coat-distribution events, and he works tirelessly to raise funds and awareness through the rest of the year. His continued determination to help at-risk children has touched so many lives, and he remains a role model for so many.
—Elizabeth Lewis, longtime employee and friend