Warm the Children was started by former Middletown Press publisher Mack Stewart. It’s grown to a national effort, reaching more than 30,000 kids each year.

What does Warm The Children mean to the children who get new winter clothing and footwear through the program? Erin McCarthy, school social worker at Bielefield School in Middletown, tells of “lots of kids” who get off the school bus in the morning; you look at them and you know they really need something warm to wear, that their torn sweatshirt is all they’ve got, she said. When recess time comes, all the kids have to go to recess (unless they opt to stay inside). But without a coat, these kids are cold.

“So usually we’ll just cobble something together to make sure they are warm enough, layers of clothing from the Lost-and-Found, or a teacher’s coat,” McCarthy said. “Isn’t it terrible that, in this age and time, so many little children can be so lacking in what most of us take for granted….the basic winter things needed for our cold New England winters?”

McCarthy said Warm The Children, the program that provides new winter clothing and footwear for needy children, “makes all the difference to so many children at her school. Without it, lots of kids would just have to go through the winter with a torn sweatshirt – and never be able to go outside on the playground with their own coat.

“As they get off the school bus I’ve asked kids, ‘where is your coat?’ and they answer, ‘I don’t have it yet,” meaning they haven’t gone Warm The Children shopping yet,” McCarthy said. “But I know they will, because I referred the family, and I know that soon they’ll have a new coat.”

Warm The Children, a joint effort of The Middletown Press and the Kiwanis Club of Middletown, asks readers for monetary donations – every penny of which will be used to purchase new winter clothing and footwear for northern Middlesex County’s neediest children.

Staffs from area public elementary and middle schools and social service agencies including CRT Head Start, Even Start, and Middlesex Hospital’s Family Advocacy Program identify families to be served.

The Kiwanis Club Warm The Children coordinator assigns each family to a volunteer shopper (there are 170 of them in the Middletown area). They meet at a mutually agreeable time at Walmart in Cromwell, and together they select new winter things for the children ($80 each for age 2 and over, $40 each for under 2). Walmart bills the Kiwanis Foundation for all purchases.

Tax deductible donations are accepted at: Warm The Children, c/o Liberty Bank, 315 Main St., Middletown CT 06457.