Warm The Children had its beginning in 1988 in Torrington, Connecticut. Mack W. Stewart, publisher of the local newspaper (The Register-Citizen), was driving to work one cold November day and saw little children waiting for the school bus; many were inadequately clothed, with only sweatshirts to shield them from the snow and cold wind.
Stewart thought his newspaper could do something to help the children. He’d worked for a newspaper in Troy, New York which had a program called Clothe-A-Child that provided clothing and footwear for Troy’s neediest children. With a few modifications to fit northwest Connecticut, Warm The Children was born.
The Register-Citizen asked its readers for monetary donations; every cent was set aside for the purchase of new winter clothing and footwear for Torrington’s neediest. The Salvation Army identified families to be served; volunteer shoppers met the families at local stores (which provided substantial discounts) and bought about $80 of new clothing and footwear for each child. That first year the newspaper raised $20,000 and served 249 children.
In 1992 Stewart was sent to Middletown, Connecticut to manage that’s city’s newspaper, The Middletown Press. He brought Warm the Children with him; it was an immediate and huge success.
Stewart says Warm The Children’s greatest beneficiaries are, of course, the children who get nice new winter things (for many the first “new” they’d ever had). But the newspaper, too , realizes enormous benefit because the community likes what they see – their newspaper taking an unselfish giant step to help the community’s neediest children. Stewart said it was the best community relations program he’d ever tried.
Stewart “retired” from newspapering in 1993 and, since then, has worked to help newspapers embrace the program. Currently there are thirty Warm The Children programs in twelve states; collectively each year they serve 13,000+ children with $1 million in new winter clothing and footwear.
When he started Warm The Children, Stewart insisted on two things; first, that every penny collected in donations be used to purchase new winter wear for needy children, that nothing – not one cent – ever be used for administration. Second, he would provide a simple formula for making the program work and help each newspaper implement the program.