Operation Keep Warm | A Story of Hope
A middle-aged man stands huddled in a covered bus stop, seeking shelter from the bite of winter’s icy chill. He shivers, unadorned—without a hat, gloves, or scarf. He turns, and there on the bench lies a plastic bag containing the very things he needs to ease his suffering. A note on the bag says, “I’m not lost! If you find yourself stuck out in the cold, please take this bag of love to keep warm!”
Since 2015, hundreds of bags like these have been left inside Warren bus stops during the winter months by Patty Chirite and three of her grandchildren. Patty created the ministry Dominic’s Operation Keep Warm to honor her grandson, Dominic, who died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) when he was eight weeks old. Patty was concerned about his older brother, Lucas, who was three at the time of his baby brother’s passing.
“I wanted to give Lucas a sense of purpose after Dominic’s death,” Patty said. Now 12 years old, Lucas is considered acting president of the foundation.
Patty started the ministry with a twofold purpose: to honor Dominic’s memory and to serve her fellow man. Going into their ninth year of ministry, Patty and her grandchildren, Lucas, Kylie, and Jayce, along with Lucas’s friend, Maegan, venture out from December through March to deliver the bags.
Patty chose to create these bags for people at bus stops because many individuals ride the bus during the winter just to stay warm. According to smartbus.org, people can ride from one to four hours for as little as fifty cents, depending on the route. For some riders, this is a way to save on home heating bills.
When Patty observed people standing under cover and waiting for buses, she felt God lay a burden on her heart to ease their discomfort. The Operation Keep Warm bags are constructed with appropriate winter accessories for both men and women. Patty has seen joy on her grandchildren’s faces as they distribute them, knowing they are making a difference in someone’s life.
Patty’s family has attended Woodside Warren since 2015. Known as “Miss Patty” or “Grandma,” Patty has served in the campus children’s ministry, hosted a Life Group, and worked in women’s ministries. Lucas’s mom, Kristen Cordle, currently serves as the director of children’s ministries at the church.
For a few years, Patty and her family managed Dominic’s Operation Keep Warm by themselves because they wanted to provide the items anonymously. But as word spread of Patty’s ministry, members of Woodside Warren started donating clothes and making financial contributions to support them. Eventually, the church began donating drawstring bags, complete with invitations to visit the campus and information on how to come to Christ.
As the ministry grew, Patty’s grandchildren expressed concern that people who didn’t need the kits would take them. At this, Patty reassured them of the purpose of the ministry.
“If they’re taking it, they need it,” she said. “I don’t care who takes it.”
Every winter weekend, Patty and her crew make two rounds of deliveries to the same six bus stops in Warren, allowing them to observe which bags have been taken. Sometimes, they view people using the items they’ve left.
Once, the children saw a man—just discharged from the nearby hospital with a blanket wrapped around his shoulders—open a bag and immediately put the pair of woolen socks he found on his bare feet. Another time, they saw a young pregnant girl take a bag. Kylie was so moved that she asked her grandmother if she could give the expectant mother the $20 she had earned babysitting.
Dominic’s Operation Keep Warm has remained a passion for Patty and her family since the ministry’s very first year, now almost a decade ago. Patty usually starts the season with a kick-off event, where volunteers feast, fellowship, and stuff bags together. She is thankful for the women in her Life Group who have been faithful supporters of the ministry. As the foundation prepares for another year, Patty believes that God is pleased.
“This ministry started with a three-year-old boy who lost his baby brother,” Patty said. “After ten years, we believe that God does use our tragedies for good. We never planned for it to grow, but it did. My goal is that each Woodside church campus takes one day and delivers Dominic’s Operation Keep Warm bags to local bus stops in memory of Dominic. We are obeying and doing His will. It is all for God’s glory.”
You can find Dominic’s Operation Keep Warm on Facebook, where Patty posts pictures and information about the ministry’s process of collection, packaging, and delivery.
This winter, the foundation needs delivery drivers to help distribute the bags. If you’d like to contribute financially or donate hats, scarves, gloves, woolen socks, toiletries, or bus tickets to the ministry, contact Patty at email@example.com.