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Nick Saraceni headshot

Bridging the Gap Between Donations and Meaningful Connections

Subaru has donated millions of dollars to local and national nonprofits across the U.S., and its community commitment manager says one lesson stands out most: Businesses cannot make a genuine impact on behalf of a community without building a meaningful connection first.
By Nick Saraceni
Subaru coat drive with Operation Warm

While we live in an age of hyper-connectivity, it often feels like people are more detached from their local communities than ever before. A majority of Americans (57 percent) only know some — or none — of their neighbors, and few socialize with them, according to Pew Research. And businesses are susceptible to the same trap. While corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs abound, few organizations go beyond the act of making monetary donations, missing major opportunities to build meaningful connections with the communities they engage. 

At Subaru, we are committed to being a positive force in the communities where we live and work. It’s part of the Subaru Love Promise, our vision to show love and respect to all people at every interaction. This has come to life across dozens of CSR programs over the years. Working together with our nationwide network of retailers who know and understand their communities, we’ve established and nurtured longstanding relationships on behalf of Subaru. From supplying local high-needs schools with critical funding to purchase classroom supplies to teaming up with animal welfare organizations to help shelter pets find loving homes, we’ve had the privilege of interacting with community members on a personal level. 

We’ve learned a lot over the years, but one lesson rises above the rest: Businesses cannot make a genuine impact on behalf of a community without building a meaningful connection first.

And our communities need these connections now more than ever. Across the country, hundreds of thousands of people are experiencing homelessness and other urgent need situations. Roughly 653,100 people were experiencing homelessness during a single night in 2023, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) 2023 Annual Homeless Assessment Report. That’s a record high since data collection began in 2007 and a 12 percent increase over the year before. Nearly three of every 10 people (28 percent) experiencing homelessness are part of a family with children.

Over the years, we've made helping those in urgent need a priority through our Subaru Loves to Help initiative, but with the need higher than ever, we knew we had to do more. 

Enter Operation Warm, our new Subaru Loves to Help charity partner. Operation Warm is a national nonprofit that manufactures brand-new, high-quality coats and shoes for children in need. Its mission is to provide warmth, confidence, and hope through basic needs programs that connect underserved kids to the community resources needed to thrive.

In addition to having over 25 years of experience and expertise, Operation Warm stood out to us because it is one of a few organizations helping to provide for children’s basic needs, as well as for their social and emotional development. Per the nonprofit’s motto, it’s offering “more than a coat.” 

Subaru Coat Drive with Operation Warm - boy looks at coats

Through this partnership, local gifting events are organized so children can personally choose the items in styles and colors that they prefer. In February, Subaru retailers across the nation will actively engage with local shelters and organizations supporting youth in their communities. These special events, facilitated with the assistance of local beneficiary partners, offer a range of coat and shoe styles and colors, as well as socks — all donated by the Subaru retailer.

At these events children can try on, be fitted for, and choose brand-new coats, shoes and socks that reflect their personal style. These essential items not only keep children safe and warm, but they also provide confidence and can mean the difference between participating in school, activities, and other experiences critical to social and emotional development.

Subaru is proud to be the largest automotive supporter of Operation Warm and shares the organization’s values of community connection. And as with any good partnership, both organizations are benefiting tremendously. Operation Warm is helping Subaru create longstanding relationships between our retailers and local shelters. Our employees and retailers now have the chance to directly engage with people in their communities and fill a very specific need. Hosting gifting events allows them to interact with the children firsthand and connect with each of them individually, which is incredibly emotional. 

Simultaneously, Subaru has played a vital role in the expansion of Operation Warm, enabling it to increase its impact in over 600 ZIP codes nationwide. Recognizing the demand for socks as a top request from shelters, Subaru initiated their production, complementing the provision of coats and shoes by Operation Warm. This underscores the strength of the collaboration between national partners and the collective achievements made possible through joint efforts.

We’ve always looked for ways to support those who need it the most in our communities, which is how our Subaru Loves to Help initiative came to be what it is today. Whether it is by providing blankets and socks to homeless shelters, donating food to Feeding America and local food banks, helping Meals on Wheels deliver meals to seniors, or supporting the American Red Cross in disaster response, we believe our communities get stronger when everyone is cared for. Together with our retailers and partners, we are committed to identifying the needs of the people in our communities and helping support them with actions that set an example for others to follow.

We are proud to partner with Operation Warm to offer children in urgent need both physical and emotional warmth, in turn providing them comfort, confidence and hope. As we look to grow our impact in the years ahead, Subaru and our retailers plan to continue going beyond just donations. We believe in the importance of meaningful human connections because nurturing and building relationships within our communities is equally as important as the work we do and the contributions we make.

This article series is sponsored by Subaru of America and produced by the TriplePundit editorial team. 

Nick Saraceni headshot

Nick Saraceni is a Love Promise Community Commitment Manager at Subaru of America. 

Read more stories by Nick Saraceni