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Kids’ funds tug at our heartstrings


Tuesday, November 06, 2018

If there’s any saving grace to the commercialism of the season that we are about to embark on, it’s the spirit that channels a stream of contributions to charities for children. Locally, that includes The Recorder’s Warm the Children campaign and the Athol Daily News Santa Fund.

Warm the Children provides new winter clothing to more than 1,000 needy children in Franklin County in a shopping experience that is like going to a store. Children and their families or guardians visit the Dole Building at the Franklin County Fairgrounds, where a volunteer shopper takes the children on a “shopping trip” through the colorful racks of brand new jackets, boots, hats, pajamas, socks, thermal underwear and fleece sweatshirts. The process is anonymous and the end result is a nice new set of warm clothes, as good as the next child’s.

Making it all happen is a roster of community players: The Greenfield Recorder donates all newspaper advertising. The Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts takes care of the money. Wilson’s Department Store orders clothing and sets up the temporary “store,” and Community Action coordinates the referral process and “shopping” events.

The distribution of warm clothes takes place in September so that kids can put them on at first frost. But that means those photos of families lined up outside the Dole Building at the Franklin County Fairgrounds are in the rearview mirror come November. And yet, Warm the Children is at a critical stage for 2019 because the money coming in now pays for the clothing given out next year. Annual events like the Franklin County Jail and House of Correction’s golf tournament and the Greenfield Tae Kwon Do’s Breakathon help to jumpstart the campaign, but the bulk of the total raised still comes from individual donors who send in their checks to The Recorder, knowing that next winter will be cold, too, and needy children would otherwise be walking to school without warm boots and jackets.

The fundraising campaign is approaching its December endpoint, although the Recorder accepts donations all year.

“It just warms my heart that we operate in such a giving community,” Recorder publisher Michael Rifanburg said. “We’re fortunate in that respect. We do the things we do because I have a team of people here who are from the community, and they themselves are very giving, and when we do projects like Warm the Children, we find others just like us out there in the community.”

Last year, Warm the Children raised more than $84,000. That translates to aiding over 1,200 children in our community. This year’s goal of $90,000 would increase our reach to 1,300 children. Please help us to meet that goal. To donate, send a check to: Warm the Children, c/o The Recorder, P.O. Box 1367, Grenfield MA 01302, or drop by the office at 14 Hope St.

The Athol Santa Fund

For the Athol community, the Santa Fund is all about toys. There is no income requirement; parent(s) visit the Athol Daily News office to sign up; all that’s needed is a photo ID and a recent utility bill as proof of residence. Coordinated by the Athol Lions Club, volunteers include students from Athol High School’s Student Council and National Honor Society, who help wrap gifts and box them up for each family: three gifts for each child and a gift for the family. This year, the magical delivery date is Dec. 15, when six trucks and six Santa Clauses will make their rounds, accompanied by those teenage elves. The annual monetary goal is $13,500, says Kim Emond, an Athol Lions Club member.

“I love kids and I’m so happy to be involved in something bigger than myself,” says Emond. “My husband is a former Marine, so he used to do a lot for Toys for Tots out in California. There’s so many people that make this happen: My husband and I are just the conductors. The magic wouldn’t be there without the donations, the businesses, the delivery day and everything leading up to it.”

Generous Santa Fund contributors include Peter Gerry of Pete’s Tire Barn, the Ellinwood Country Club and businesses in the area. But it’s the sum of the individual contributions that puts the fund over the top every year. To donate to the Santa Fund, please drop off your check to the Athol Daily News office at 225 Exchange Street or use one of the coupons you’ll find in the paper to mail it in.