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Founded in 1998, Operation Warm distributes winter coats to children across America, protecting their health and safety as well as buoying their spirits. We spoke to executive director Rich Lalley about the organization?s history, mission, and accomplishments.

The Roots

After reading a newspaper story about children waiting at a bus stop on a cold February day just a mile from his home, retired businessman Dick Sanford was "outraged," Lalley said. "He couldn't understand how children in his community could be without coats. He went to a department store and bought all 58 children's coats in stock" and distributed them through a school, whose superintendent he knew from the Rotary Club. "Dick was blown away by the reaction of the kids and reaction of the parents."

Why a New Coat Means More Than Comfort

"Our motto is 'more than a coat,' and I like to say we bring happiness and warmth to children through a new winter coat," Lalley said. "When they get a brand-new winter coat all their own, it's like Christmas day. You will hear stories of a girl who wears the coat to bed for three weeks, the boy who wants to wear it into April. It's oftentimes the first new piece of clothing the children have received in their lives. They feel better about themselves, and when they feel better about themselves, children perform better in school."

"This Coat Was Made Just for You"

"One of the first coat distributions I was on was at a little afterschool program in [Chicago?s] Rogers Park. A Rotary Club near Rogers Park provides a great deal of support to this little afterschool program called Family Matters. One of the little girls looked at me and said, 'Thank you for the coat. When do I have to give it back?' And we said she could keep it. That's why all our coats have the label 'this coat was made just for you' sewn inside and kids can write their names on it."

Kid-Friendly Coats Made in the United States

Operation Warm distributes hundreds of thousands of new coats around the country each year?so many that it contracts with factories to make coats specifically for it. The organization's coats are brightly colored and have extra-deep pockets and detachable hoods, and they come in sizes 3T to adult large. Although domestic manufacturing tends to be expensive, Lalley says 20% of its coats (about 60,000) are made in a union factory in the United States.

1301 East Rio Grande Street
Victoria,
TX
US

The volunteers of Musicians On Call's Bedside Performance Program may not have gone through med school, but that doesn't mean they're not healers. In fact, in some cases the responses they're able to elicit from their small hospital-room audiences—a smile on a stress-racked face, a foot moving ever so slightly to the music—are enough to make most doctors jealous.

The concept is as simple as it is unconventional: a volunteer knocks on a hospital door and asks if the room's occupant would like to hear some music. Patients who agree are treated to a brief private concert, a respite from the anxiety and monotony that can characterize even brief hospital stays. These miniature performances are so effective that in its 14 years of existence the organization has garnered support from celebrities across the musical spectrum and has grown to include branches in six cities: New York, Nashville, Los Angeles, Miami, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. Through these branches, it's arranged for more than 400,000 patients, family members, and caregivers to rest their minds and recharge their spirits through the power of live music.

Live music, however, isn't the only salve in Musicians On Call's arsenal. Hospitals in all 50 states, as well as in Puerto Rico and Ireland, have received comprehensive CD libraries, as well as CD players, as part of the organization's Music Pharmacy program.

NBC Nightly News features MOC from Ebie McFarland on Vimeo.

See how Groupon helps you discover local causes and lend a helping hand to projects big and small at the Groupon Grassroots blog.

1301 East Rio Grande Street
Victoria,
TX
US

In 2011 The Interrupters documentary introduced audiences to three Chicagoans whose job it was to walk the streets of their neighborhoods mediating violent disputes. They were part of CeaseFire?Chicago's Cure Violence program?working with other Violence Interrupters to mediate potentially lethal conflicts in the city. In 2013, CeaseFire workers mediated nearly 700 high-risk conflicts, often by physically standing between feuding individuals, putting their lives at risk to make their communities safer.

In addition to its work in Chicago, Cure Violence operates programs in five other Illinois cities and 22 cities across the US, and across four countries. The organization's founder, Dr. Gary Slutkin, is an epidemiologist who approaches violence as an infectious disease that should be treated like any other?with scientifically proven methods. Those include detection, intervention, and behavior modification, combined to alter a community's perspective of violence and stop the problem at its source.

Within violence-plagued neighborhoods, the organization's Violence Interrupters?often former violence perpetrators?detect and mediate potentially lethal conflicts. Outreach Workers, meanwhile, work with high-risk individuals to change the way they think about violence and help them improve their lives within the system. On a larger scale, Cure Violence shifts the discourse within whole communities and society at large, emphasizing a health approach to violence instead of punishment.

1301 East Rio Grande Street
Victoria,
TX
US

In 2012, FastCompany placed Siiri Morley in its ?League of Extraordinary Women.? The distinction is certainly deserved. Three years prior, Ms. Morley helped co-launch a program in Iraq that provided 50 women with jobs as candle makers and paid them a living wage in a safe workplace. The program included on-the-job training in candle-making as well as the basics of running a small business, equipping the women for future entrepreneurial pursuits. Ms. Morley and her cofounders soon expanded the scope of their program, bringing it back home to Easthampton and giving it a name: Prosperity Candles. Stateside, Prosperity Candles employs female refugees from Bhutan and Burma and guarantees the same workplace rights enjoyed by their coworkers in Iraq.

Prosperity Candles is not a charity. The female artisans work hard to produce beautiful, sweet-smelling candles that can be enjoyed in the home or given as a gift, keeping the company from relaying on outside funding. Each candle arrives on doorsteps with the story of the woman who crafted it, so recipients might reach out to her and offer their encouragement.

Seehow Groupon helps you discover local causes and lend a helping hand to projects big and small at the Groupon Grassroots blog.

1301 East Rio Grande Street
Victoria,
TX
US

Walking the halls and heading the classrooms of a Bronx high school, Charles Best, the founder of DonorsChoose.org, encountered firsthand the scarcity of teaching supplies that effects many American public schools. In 2000, he created DonorsChoose.org to help alleviate this, connecting community members directly to underfunded classrooms. Public schoolteachers post campaigns to the website, requesting funds for specific projects such as a violin recital or a biology lesson with microscopes. Donors can contribute as little as $1, and regardless of the size of their donations, they receive photos of the project in action, thank-you letters from teachers, and a cost report detailing how each donated dollar was spent. The organization also records the impact of its work through daily data reports. To date, DonorsChoose.org had raised more than $200 million dollars, supported more than 10 million students, and funded more than 400,000 projects.

1301 E. Rio Grande Ave.
Victoria,
TX
US

Not Alone enables active-duty soldiers, veterans, and their families to address the emotional and psychological effects of combat experience with mental-health counseling and support services. Online and in-person programs address the effects of combat and posttraumatic-stress disorder, with more than 400 professionals available to provide confidential counseling services for veterans and active military members across 22 states. An online social network connects peers, informal groups cater to significant others, and the eClinic offers immediate 24/7 assistance to service members in need. Not Alone also maintains a combat-stress assessment to determine daily stress levels and an online database of articles on PTSD and life after war.

See how Groupon helps you discover local causes and lend a helping hand at the Groupon Grassroots blog.

1301 East Rio Grande Street
Victoria,
TX
US