Crowdfunding helps Rotary spread warmth

 

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Members of the West End Rotary Club and the Pleasant Valley Ecumenical Network prepare winter coats for donation to children in the area.

West End Rotary has gone high-tech to keep children of the Poconos snug this winter.

In a campaign called Operation Warm, Rotary has given 150 winter coats to the Pleasant Valley Ecumenical Network for distribution to families in need. That’s nothing new for a club that donates thousands of dollars each year to ambulance corps, fire companies and other charitable organizations. What is new is the way in which West End Rotary raised the money.

Each year the club holds several fundraiser and designates the proceeds for a specific cause. Last year’s Oktoberfest and Car Show in Gilbert would have raised thousands of dollars for Operation Warm, a program that provides new winter coats to children in need in an effort to boost school attendance and self-esteem.

“But despite our best fundraising efforts, it snowed on the day of our car show and we were not able to meet this community need without help,” said Karin Susan Breitlauch, the West End Rotarian who spearheaded the project. A veterinarian who with her husband, computer specialist Ed Gallagher, uses advanced technology in her practice, Breitlauch decided to rely on the high-tech version of the kindness of strangers: she crowdsourced the fundraising.

Innovative funding
With a goal of purchasing at least a hundred coats for the ecumenical network, Breitlauch established a page for the project on GoFundMe, a San Diego-based crowdfunding platform that allows people to raise money for causes, events and special needs. In less than two months, the club raised enough money to buy the coats from Operation Warm, an organization that provides garments manufactured from 100% recycled materials in two styles and 12 colors.

But while West End Rotary exceeded its goal, the club realized it had to do more when the ecumenical network said it would like to distribute 400 coats.

West End Rotary President Kevin Noll said he sees the community need every time he drives to work. “More and more families cannot afford to buy a new winter coat for their child. It’s sad to see a child on the side of the road waiting to get onto a bus without the bare essentials of a winter coat, something most of us take for granted. It’s not a good way to start their day.”

Breitlauch said the weather also plays a part in that equation. “The weather experts are suggesting that 2014-15 will exceed 2013-14 in cold and snow. There is a real sense of urgency.”

Donors who would like to support Rotary’s work can contribute toward future coat purchases—$20 per coat or $102 for a case of six—at gofundme.com/hmipbo or by contacting Breitlauch at ksbvet@ptd.net or (610) 390-0351.

History of service
This isn’t the first time West End Rotary has spearheaded the program. In 2010, the club purchased 128 new coats and repeated the effort for another relief organization the following year.

Other projects have followed. Over the past three years, the club has donated a stair chair to West End Community Ambulance, water-rescue equipment for the Jackson Township Volunteer Fire Co., thermal imaging software for Blue Ridge Hook & Ladder Co. and dictionaries to every third grade student in the Pleasant Valley School District.

West End Rotary meets for breakfast at 7:30 a.m. on most Thursdays at the Western Pocono Community Library in Brodheadsville. The public is welcome to attend.