WILLMAR -- The West Central Tribune kicks off its 19th annual Warm the Children campaign this week. The campaign is designed to help provide warm winter clothing to area children.
It is expected that up to 500 children across the region will receive warm winter clothing again this year, through the efforts of the 2012 campaign. Goal of this year's campaign is $40,000.
Warm the Children is designed to help needy families throughout the Tribune's coverage area provide warm winter clothing for their children. Many of these families are classified as "working poor." By definition, they aren't poor enough to qualify for many social programs, yet they don't earn enough to be able to get ahead.
During the long Minnesota winters, just putting food on the table and paying the heating bill can often be a struggle. Necessary winter clothing, suitable for use in sub-zero temperatures is simply not in the budget.
Through Warm the Children, fewer children will go cold this winter.
Tribune employees coordinate the Warm the Children program, and all administrative fees are covered through the company. That means 100 percent of all donations go back into the community to serve the children in our six-county area.
The Tribune has a partnership with Main Street Willmar, which provides local tax-exempt status for the program.
The program is also coordinated through social service agencies and school personnel in each of the area counties -- Kandiyohi, Meeker, Renville, Chippewa, Yellow Medicine and Swift -- to help identify the children in need. All applications must be made through regional social service agencies.
Donations are being sought from readers, service organizations, clubs and businesses throughout the region to help purchase clothing for these children. The program serves children infant through age 18, with an emphasis on school-age children.
Already, lists in each of the counties carry the names of a number of children waiting to see if they will be selected to receive some new clothes this winter.
Each year, the lists are longer than the various charity programs in the area can cover.
Last year, the Warm the Children campaign took in $37,305, falling just short of a goal of $40,000. The donations received helped to clothe 489 children throughout the area. Now in its 18th year, the Warm the Children campaign has helped more than 6,900 children from more than 2,530 families over the past 18 years.
Through Warm the Children, the families are taken shopping, accompanied by a volunteer shopper. The parents and children are allowed, in many cases, to select their own purchases.
Especially for teens, the significance of being able to select their own purchase is a real boost to their self-esteem. For parents, the program often helps provide not only for warm winter outerwear for their children, but maybe an item of clothing to place under the Christmas tree as well.
Purchases are limited to clothing items -- coats, boots, shoes, mittens, scarves, jeans, sweaters, underwear or other basic clothing needs. Each child's purchases are limited to an estimated $80.
How can you help?
Donations may be sent to: Warm the Children, West Central Tribune, Box 839, Willmar, MN 56201; or dropped off at the Tribune office, 2208 Trott Ave. SW., in Willmar. Checks should be made payable to: Warm the Children.
Volunteers are also needed.
The volunteer shoppers meet the parents/family at the agreed upon store at a time arranged to meet their schedules.
They are there primarily to assist with the purchase orders and to make sure all purchases fall within the program guidelines. No cash exchanges hands; all purchases are charged to the Warm the Children program.
Various merchants in area communities have agreed to allow the purchase order charges; in addition, many of the stores offer additional discounts for purchases made through the Warm the Children program.
There are many ways residents throughout the area can help this holiday season. Warm the Children provides opportunity to help make some child's holiday season a little brighter -- and a Minnesota winter a little warmer.
For more information about Warm the Children, or to volunteer your time as a shopper, contact the West Central Tribune at 320-235-1150.