‘It was like Christmas’Holyoke transplants wowed by Warm the Children

  • Nathaniel, Xavier and Benjamin Woodard ride thier bikes in their new jackets outside of thier home in Greenfield. Staff Photo/Melina Bourdeau

  • Nathaniel and Benjamin Woodard play with leaves outside in their new jackets outside of thier home in Greenfield. Staff Photo/Melina Bourdeau

  • Nathaniel, Xavier and Benjamin Woodard ride their bikes in their new jackets outside of thier home in Greenfield. Staff Photo/Melina Bourdeau

Staff Writer
Published: 11/9/2018 5:29:01 PM

GREENFIELD – Christmas arrived in September for the Woodard family in Oak Courts.

Nathaniel, 11, Xavier, 8, and Benjamin, 6, were in school when their father, Columbus, visited the temporary store set up in the Dole Building of the Franklin County Fairgrounds as part of Warm the Children, The Recorder’s charity that provides 1,200 area children with clothing each year. When the boys got home from the Greenfield YMCA, where they go every day after school, they felt like they hit the jackpot. Columbus had laid out all the clothes for them to see.

“(They were) laughing and having fun and trying on everything,” Columbus recalled this week. “They were excited.”

Donations to Warm the Children pay for new winter clothes for young children whose families can use the help. The Woodard boys got socks, pajamas, underwear, long johns, T-shirts, coats, hats and gloves. Distribution this year lasted from Sept. 19 through Sept. 21.

“We got there about 15 minutes early from our appointed time. The line wasn’t long. But the workers that were there were amazing,” Columbus said. “It was like Christmas. I’ve never seen nothing like it before. It was wonderful.”

Nathaniel said the pajamas are his favorite, while Xavier is partial to the long johns and Benjamin’s favorite is his new jacket.

“How about you, daddy?” Xavier asked Columbus.

“I just like to see y’all smiling – that’s all,” he responded. “Daddy just enjoys seeing y’all smiling.”

Columbus found out about Warm the Children from friend and neighbor Chelsea Pease, who went with him to the Dole Building to get the clothes.

As their father talked, the boys rode around Oak Courts on the bicycles Columbus bought them with money that was freed up thanks to the free clothing. The Woodards moved in on Dec. 23, 2017, and they say the community has been nothing but welcoming. The family came from a Holyoke homeless shelter, where they lived for two years after Columbus had a stroke, only to have a second one while in the shelter. He said he loves that his kids get to run around freely now, as the shelter was in a neighborhood where he heard gunshots every night.

“(I) couldn’t let the kids go out and play for two years, man,” he said. “It was rough.”

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.

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