By Angela Smith, www.annarbor.com
Doug Ziesemer has been a member of Kiwanis for 33 years. He’s been coordinating the Kiwanis’ efforts to support AnnArbor.com’s Warm the Children program since 1997, when The Ann Arbor News first launched the program locally.
Each year, Kiwanis organizes 50 or more shopping expeditions for the children who are recipients of the program. The Kiwanis volunteers work with Washtenaw County families to shop for $90 worth of new warm clothes for children in need.
Kiwanis volunteers begin asking about how to line up their Warm the Children shopping time as early as Labor Day, according to Ziesemer
“It really brings perspective,” Ziesemer says. “There are some situations in our community where families have so little to work with.”
Ziesemer says that Warm the Children’s goal is in sync with the mission of Kiwanis: Kiwanis is a global organization of volunteers dedicated to changing the world, one child and one community at a time.
“Starting five years ago, the club began giving each family a $100 gift certificate to be used at the Kiwanis Thrift Sale. This enables the family to get things they need beyond clothing and footwear for the children, and provides an opportunity for them to learn what the Kiwanis Thrift Sale is all about.”
When the gift card is redeemed, Kiwanis member Carol Zigler makes a donation to the club in the amount spent. “It really provides a chance to give back,” Ziesemer says.
“I’ve been a volunteer shopper since our club began participating in Warm the Children,” says Lynne Lande. “I really enjoy the shopping trips. I often have a family with five or six children. This year I will be meeting a mother with 10 children.
“Each child receives $90 worth of clothing. It impresses me how efficient and wise the mothers are in selecting clothing for each of their children and in keeping mental tallies of how much they have spent for each child. When we get to the cash register, they are often within $1 of the $90 limit.
“It also is fun to interact with the children and see their excitement about a new snowsuit and boots or a pretty sweater and slacks. The $100 gift certificates for the Kiwanis Thrift Sale introduce more families to the wonderful bargains they can find there year round.
“Warm the Children also warms our hearts. It is a great partnership between the program, the volunteer shoppers, AnnArbor.com, and the Target stores, which honor the vouchers and work so graciously with the shoppers and families.”
There are a number of ways that you can help:
- Donate. If you would like to contribute to Warm the Children, you can mail in the form printed in the newspaper, visit www.annarbor.com/warmthechildren, or call the Warm The Children hotline at 734-623-2525. Donations are also accepted at any United Bank and Trust branch in Washtenaw County.
- Volunteer. You can give in a meaningful way even if you cannot afford to support the effort financially. Warm The Children works with volunteers who offer their time as personal shoppers to assist the recipient families. Each year, AnnArbor.com receives many notes and phone calls sharing stories of gratitude from recipients and volunteer shoppers alike. Sharing in the joy of the children and their parents has become a cherished winter tradition for many of the volunteers who help the families with their purchases. If you have an hour or two to help out with this effort, contact Warm The Children via the hotline, Web site, or coupon listing below.
- Spread the word. Do you know a family that could benefit from this program? Participation is based on need, and referrals are given through school and community social workers. Do you know of a group that is looking for a special way to give back to the community this season? Suggest they create an event to raise funds for Warm The Children.