It was a cold and stormy night when sophomore Elizabeth DeRuvo first envisioned her organization, Operation Warm Winter.
The idea came to DeRuvo when she was six years old. She realized that during cold nights, the homeless had nowhere safe and dry to go. DeRuvo asked her mother where they go to sleep and her mother explained that some of them may find a shelter, but others sleep outside.
“When I heard that, I ran to my closet and grabbed all of the blankets I owned,” DeRuvo said. “I insisted to my mom that we drive around Novato that day giving to those in need.”
After handing out blankets and talking to members of the community, DeRuvo’s organization began to grow outward.
In 2011, DeRuvo was able to extend her organization beyond Novato when she flew out to the Nate Berkus show in New York. At eight years old, DeRuvo was interviewed and given the opportunity to share her project to the world. Later that year, she won the American Red Cross Community Hero Award. DeRuvo revived the organization after the Camp Fire in Chico, California last year.
Many shelters and organizations have teamed up with DeRuvo to fuel her mission.
“We have been very blessed with supporters, and we have many nearby shelters that greatly support us,” DeRuvo said.
Shelters like COTS in Petaluma, and the Torres Shelter in Chico, California, have been organizations working alongside her. DeRuvo recently worked with Torres Shelter when the Camp Fire, that began in late November 2018, destroyed a number of homes. In addition, the San Marin football team also helped DeRuvo create a collection of jackets and blankets at the end of their season. During the days where the team could not play due to the poor air quality, the team coordinated a drive with the help of the football team manager and sophomore Izagani Aquino.
“It didn’t feel right to me that as a team, our main concern was being able to play when there were people in Paradise that had lost everything,” Aquino said.
Once the air cleared up and the games resumed, DeRuvo and Aquino made plans to place donation bins at the entrance of the games. Aquino advertised the drive on the football team’s Instagram account and after the game day, five bins were filled up.
However, DeRuvo has faced a harsh reality amidst her progress.
“The biggest setback has been realizing that no matter what you do, you can’t help everyone,” DeRuvo said. “That statement constantly rings in my mind and because of that, I am always working to find new ways to help those around me because I know there is always someone out there in need of support.”
DeRuvo has maintained her purpose throughout the years, which is helping everyone she can. Not only does she want to make sure that the homeless are kept warm during cold nights, but she also wants to bring the community together.
“There is no greater accomplishment than hearing the humbling and heroic stories of the people I’ve met, and seeing the smiles on the faces of those who just received a new coat, jacket or blanket,” DeRuvo said.