Warm The Children

Warm the Children family comes back for help  two decades later

Recorder/Paul Franz
Carrie-Ann Richardson plays with her three-year-old grandson Matthew Richardson outside their Greenfield home. Matthew is wearing his jacket from the Warm the Children charity.

Recorder/Paul Franz Carrie-Ann Richardson plays with her three-year-old grandson Matthew Richardson outside their Greenfield home. Matthew is wearing his jacket from the Warm the Children charity. Purchase photo reprints »

GREENFIELD — Just recently CarrieAnn Richardson had a flashback — while watching her grandson Matthew jump up and down with joy after trying on his new winter coat, she remembered how happy his mother was, for the same reason, 20 years before.

When Richardson’s two children were young, her husband lost his job.

“He’d been working at Millers Falls Tool and all of a sudden he wasn’t,” said 56-year-old Richardson. “There was a layoff and he was going back to school and money was tight.”

Richardson said she was fortunate enough at the time to be able to stay home with her son and daughter, because she managed apartments for her parents to make a few extra dollars.

“We lived in one of their apartments, so that helped,” she said. “But we knew we had to do something with winter approaching. We couldn’t afford all of the clothes we were going to need for the kids and that’s when we discovered Warm the Children.”

Richardson said she was thrilled when she was told the program had accepted her.

“The kids got winter coats, sweatsuits, socks, boots, mittens and hats, sweaters, everything they needed,” said Richardson.

But, she said as good as that felt, there was also a feeling of shame that came with it.

“For a while I felt like there was a stigma,” she said. “I was ashamed that I had to use the program.”

Richardson said today she understands that parents need to do what they need to do for their children.

She said her daughter and grandson now live with her and her husband on Grove Street and she had to use the program this year to clothe her son.

“She’s a single mom struggling to take care of her 3-year-old and this program is helping a lot,” said Richardson.

She said her daughter Katie-Lynn has experienced some of the same feelings she had so long ago, but Richardson said she is trying to change her daughter’s mind.

“I talk to her about it and explain that she is being a good mom by making sure he is dressed warmly for the winter,” said Richardson. “She knows it, but wants to do it herself.”

Richardson said her daughter was about 4 years old when she started using the program.

“I only used it for a few years — just until we got back on our feet,” said Richardson.

She said the program allowed her family to stop worrying about winter clothing and concentrate on other bills, like heating and food.

Richardson said what was and always has been nice about Warm the Children is the quality of the clothing.

“They don’t scream ‘This is a program,’” she said. “They’re really good quality.”

Richardson said her grandson was clothed by the program this year and is so happy with his coat, hat, mittens, scarf and the many other items he received.

“He hasn’t seen all of them,” she said. “Money is tight, so his mommy is saving some for Christmas. He was thrilled about getting his socks.”

Richardson said the one piece of advice she would give people who need help is to put away their pride and just take care of their children.

“The people running this are so helpful and they aren’t judgmental,” she said. “They know it could be any one of us at any moment who needs help.”

Richardson said what was most exciting for her this year was watching her grandson’s “face light up when he saw his stuff.”

“It was like reliving the times with my daughter,” she said. “She would get her new coat and wanted to wear it before she left wherever it was we were picking it up from. She was so proud and happy that she had the same as her classmates.”

Richardson said parents who need help should let some of the local social service agencies know about their needs, because that’s how people are chosen for the program.

For more than 25 years, children throughout Franklin County have been warmed each winter by the generosity of strangers donating to Warm the Children.

The annual clothing drive has been serving at least 1,000 children a year.

The Recorder collects the donations, Wilson’s Department Store buys the clothing and coordinates the volunteers — between 40 and 50 each year — and Killeen Perras, who is a community coordinator at the Community Action anti-poverty agency, finds the children who need help.

To donate to Warm the Children, send a check, any time during the year, to: Warm the Children, c/o The Recorder, P.O. Box 1367, Greenfield, MA 01302.

New clothing, especially hats, mittens and coats, may also be dropped off at The Recorder, 14 Hope St., any time during the year.

If you have stories to tell about Warm the Children — especially groups that get together to knit for the program each year — please contact me at 413-772-0261, ext 280 or write to afritz@recorder.com.

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