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Warm The Children

The Recorder, Wilson’s need your help to put local kids in winter gear

GREENFIELD — One thousand local children will be kept warm this year with new coats, hats and mittens.

The Recorder’s annual Warm the Children clothing drive is providing new coats, underwear, pajamas, socks and fleece sweaters to children one to 12 years old.

The charity — which accepts donations year round — runs a concerted fund drive each year in the late fall, when many traditional Warm the Children fundraisers are held.

Each year, The Recorder organizes the drive with the help of Community Action, an anti-poverty agency, and Wilson’s Department Store. Community Action finds the neediest children in the community and the town’s premier retailer purchases the clothes with the money raised and distributes it each year.

The Recorder began Warm the Children more than 25 years ago. Early on, the newspaper staff handled all aspects, from fundraising to purchasing and distributing the clothing. In more recent times, it has been helped greatly by its collaborators.

Earlier this fall, the fund served 1,000 children across Franklin County, who were able to select their clothing during a special three-day event. The money came from last year’s drive.

“We try to do 1,000 kids. Of course, the need is three times that great and there are always people that would like to get into the program. But there aren’t enough funds to handle more than 1,000 kids,” said Debbie Daly, the buyer for the program at Wilson’s Department Store.

Most significantly, every child received a coat. Last year, the fund did not have enough money to provide every child in need with a coat. However, each child did receive either pajamas, or hats and mittens.

“We served a lot of needy children,” said Daly. “This year, even though funding was tight, no child left without a coat.”

The fundraiser is a three-team effort.

The Recorder raises the funds, primarily from September to January after kicking off a fall advertising campaign. Then in the springtime, Wilson’s buys the clothing with the money raised — which adds up to about $100 per child or 1,000 coats, mittens, socks and pajamas.

Meanwhile, Killeen Perras, a community coordinator at Community Action who has worked with Warm the Children for eight years, finds the children in need by contacting social service agencies across the county. The Recorder contacts Perras in July to tell her how much money was raised and how many children can be served. This year, Perras said she reached out to 57 social service agencies.

In September, the package of clothing was distributed to the children so they can have it for the cold weather, Daly said.

The difficult part is guessing what size coats children will need and how many.

Daly buys blind. She has no idea if more children will be older boys or young infants.

“We always try to buy extra. You can’t anticipate what you’ll run out of,” said Tamara Beauregard, vice president of Wilson’s.

This year, the program had many toddlers in contrast to last year when the majority of program participants were 12-year-old boys.

At the end of the campaign, Wilson’s boxes up leftover clothing and sends it to the newspaper to store for the following year.

For this year’s event, the Franklin County Agricultural Society donated the Dole building at the Franklin County Fairgrounds for three days in September for children and families to pick up their winter wear. Between 40 and 50 people volunteered to help set up the Dole building and guide children shopping.

The spacious building made the event one of the best, organizers said.

Originally, Wilson’s distributed the clothing from the basement of the Second Congregational Church in Greenfield and later moved to portable classrooms at Greenfield High School.

The program continued to grow and Wilson’s needed a bigger space.

“(Warm The Children) is wonderful,” said Daly. “It’s a lot of fun. So many people are so appreciative for the help. It gives you a nice warm feeling to be part of it. Everyone’s circumstances are different. It’s nice to help someone in need.”

To donate to Warm the Children, send a check to: Warm the Children, c/o The Recorder, P.O. Box 1367, Greenfield, MA 01302. New clothing may also be dropped off at The Recorder, 14 Hope St. any time during the year.

The Recorder will carry weekly stories about the progress of this year’s drive and the people helping and helped.

If you have stories to tell about Warm The Children or plan fundraisers, let us know. Call 772-0261, ext 268 or write to kmckiernan@recorder.com.

You can reach Kathleen McKiernan at:
kmckiernan@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261 ext. 268.

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