Warm the Children
The Warm the Children program is now in its 18th year at the West Central Tribune and has a 2011 goal of $40,000.
Employees at the West Central Tribune joined a nationwide newspaper program, which began in the 1980s, back in 1994. They’d first heard of the program in 1993, but decided to look at it as a “back-to-school” program the next summer, primarily because, “everyone is looking for charitable donations over the holidays.”
However, after visiting with Mack Stewart, head of the nationwide program, it was decided the holidays really are the best time for a program looking to operate on donations.
So, a small group of employees decided to launch the program in the fall of 1994. That first year, they were hopeful of raising $8,000 – enough to help provide warm winter clothing for 100 children throughout the region.
They contacted charitable gambling organizations, civic groups, banks and any other group they could think of to get the word out and – hopefully, get a few sizable donations.
Although it was “touch and go” for a while, the donations that first year topped $10,000 and they were able to take 126 children from 51 families shopping for new warm winter clothing.
Priority for the shopping is to provide warm coat, boots, snowpants, hat and gloves for the children, especially those elementary-age children who need warm clothing for recess and waiting for the bus. But, the program allows for the purchase of ANY type of clothing needs – everything from socks and underwear to warm winter pajamas, shoes and school clothing. Each child is allotted an estimated $80 for the purchase of clothing. The families meet a volunteer shopper at the designated store to complete the shopping. All purchases are then charged to the Warm the Children program and paid through the community donations collected throughout the season.
Families from throughout the Tribune’s coverage area – 7 counties – are served through the program. Referrals are received through social service agencies, schools, public health and other agencies in the communities served through the program.
Donations are solicited through house ads and newspaper articles – thus making Warm the Children a fitting program for newspaper organizations across the nation.
And, what makes the program somewhat unique is the West Central Tribune covers all administrative fees associated with the program. That means 100 percent of all donations received go back into the community to help the children.
Stores also provide discounts for the Warm the Children shopping, and Main Street Willmar has lent a hand by allowing the Warm the Children program to utilize a local partner for 501(c) 3 tax exempt status.
The program has grown immensely over the years, and helped provide new warm winter clothing for more than 6,420 children from more than 2,360 families.
Donations may be sent to: Warm the Children, West Central Tribune, PO Box 839, Willmar MN 56201.
Anyone interested in being a volunteer shopper may contact Sharon or Donna at the Tribune at 320-235-1150.
-Sharon Bomstad, Features Editor