Warm the Children program provides winter warmth


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TORRINGTON — Since early November, Warm the Children volunteers have been busy arranging for shopping trips with local families. 

But the shopping’s not for the volunteers; it’s to buy warm winter clothing for the families’ children.

Warm the Children, founded in 1988 by former Register Citizen publisher Mack Stewart, provides money to families who don’t have the means to provide coats, hats, mittens and gloves for their children. The Register Citizen, following Stewart’s example, provides advertising space to promote Warm the Children. 

“On the way to work one snowy November day, (Stewart) saw children waiting for their school bus. It was cold and windy and the kids weren’t dressed for the weather,” according to warmthechildren.org. “Stewart wondered how, in rich Connecticut, could there be children going to school without proper winter clothing. He’d worked for a newspaper in Troy, N.Y. which had a program providing new winter clothing for children in need. Stewart felt something similar was needed in Torrington. He discussed his idea with local social workers and fellow employees; all said, “go for it.” One fellow employee suggested calling it Warm The Children. In the first year, the program raised $20,000 and served 249 children.”

The program is also held in other towns in Connecticut, and other states including New York, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Vermont, Michigan, West Virginia and Maryland.

Donations are a critical piece of the process, said Malo. Her team of volunteer shoppers meet families at Walmart. The budget is $80 for a child age 4 and up, and $60 for a child under 4. “The things we buy are necessary, but we love it when the kids go and help choose their own clothes,” she said. “Every kid deserves something brand new, and something that they like, that they’ll want to wear, for the holidays. 

This year’s shopping budget began at about $5,000. The names volunteer shoppers receive, Maura Malo of Northwest Community Bank said, come from FISH of NW CT Executive Director Deirdre DiCara, who reaches out to social services agencies, day care centers and local schools to find out who are the most in need. 

“This year, we received names from Deirdre from the FISH shelter, the Winsted Salvation Army, the Family Resource Center at Vogel-Wetmore Elementary School, and the Canaan Child Care Center,” Malo said.  

“We were able to shop for 53 children so far, and we have one more family to help,” she said. “For $80, you can get quite a bit. We get lots of hugs and gratitude from the families on these shopping trips.”

Warm the Children is overseen by the Northwest CT United Way, led by executive director Owen Quinn. He asked residents to support the effort. 

“Winter is rearing its ugly head. We’re asking all the people of northwest Connecticut to get behind this,” he said recently. “During the holiday season, it’s a great way to say that their donation is allowing them to adopt a family and see that they get the winter clothes that they need. Families will know that their donation is going directly to a family.”

To make a donation or for more information, visit warmthechildren.org or www.northwestunitedway.org/

 


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