Warm The Children will help more than 2,000 this year

By CATHARINE O’DONNELL
NEW STAFF REPORTER, The Ann Arbor (MI) News

Sometimes the stories are hard to believe, sometimes they bring joy, lots of times they bring work, but always they bring a lesson. Warm the Children, an effort to buy warm winter clothes for children in need, will finish its third season later this month by helping 2,330 children. That’s about 585 more than last year.

The $146,932 in donations to finance that effort have come from 1,345 individuals and organizations sending donations ranging from $5 to $15,000.

A virtual army of volunteers, most shopping family by family, met the children and their parents at Meijer or Sears for a shopping excursion. Each child in the program was allotted $80.
The program resulted in not only clothing that was seriously needed, but many, many stories:

  • Like the one about the 17-year ¬old girl raising her 12-year-old and 4-year-old siblings. Their parent, a single mother, had died recently.
  • Or the one about the youngster living in a car with her mother. Social workers discovered the situation when the child came to them foraging for food.
  • Or the ones about children whose parents are in prison.

Not all situations are as dire as these three. The typical Warm the Children referral family consists of a single parent supporting two children with a low-paying job.

All this shopping was made possible by behind-the-scenes volunteers such as the Rotary Club of Ann Arbor , North and Western Kiwanis. Donors pitched in not only with cash and checks but encouraging notes and offers to shop — stories all by themselves.

Lisa C. Young sent in a donation with a note saying $10 of it had been saved by her daughter, Larrea.

About a dozen youngsters in the Allmendinger Park area had a Warm the Children bake sale during a University of Michigan home football game, raising $183.50. Their donation arrived with a note on red construction paper signed by each child. They called their effort a “fun-raiser.”

Then there were the small notes, often written in the spidery, formal handwriting of another time.

Seniors who gave money in the name of their grandchildren or in the names of relatives who have died. Some said they are retired teachers and have known children in need. One grandfather gave in memory of a grandchild who died. Then there were the thank yous.

One, written on loose-leaf paper, came from a girl: “My brother and I would like to thank you for the winter clothes. The people who helped us shop were very nice.”
Another came from a child just learning to write: “Thank you. My grandmother said what a good thing to do.”
Then there was the note from another grandmother. She’s rearing her four grandchildren, the oldest
8 years old. She sent a thank you note after her gang went on a shopping trip: “Only the warmest thank you will do.”

Speaking of the children several weeks later, she explained, “They got shoes, coats, hats — everybody got everything they needed. It was just a blessing to me. When people go out of their way to help, when they extend a hand, you need to say thank you.”

Catharine O’Donnell is a News business reporter who covers retailing and real estate. She also is the coordinator for the Warm The Children program. It was at her urging that the newspaper adapted the project.