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Warm the Children campaign has new partner

WILLMAR -- The West Central Tribune has a new partner this year as it launches its annual Warm the Children campaign. The campaign is designed to help provide warm winter clothing to area children.

Main Street Willmar has agreed to serve as a partner with the Tribune, providing tax-exempt status for the program. In the past, the nationwide program was headquartered in Connecticut, but it was the goal of the Tribune to find a local partner for this year's program. It is hoped that this partnership will keep the program running for years to come.

It is also anticipated that more than 500 children across the region will receive warm winter clothing again this year, through the efforts of the 2010 campaign.

This 17th annual Warm the Children campaign officially kicks off this week. Goal of this year's campaign is $39,000.

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.

Tribune employees coordinate the Warm the Children program, and all administrative fees are covered through the company. One hundred percent of all donations go back into the community to serve the children in a six-county area.

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.

Social service agencies and school personnel in each of the six counties -- Kandiyohi, Meeker, Renville, Chippewa, Yellow Medicine and Swift -- help identify the children in need. All applications must be made through regional social service agencies.

Already, lists in each of the counties carry the names of a number of children waiting to see if they will 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 $39,964, exceeding its goal of $38,000. The donations received helped to clothe 550 children throughout the area. Now in its 17th year, the Warm the Children campaign has helped some 5,948 children from an estimated 2,195 families over the past 16 years.

Through Warm the Children, the parents/families are taken shopping, accompanied by a volunteer shopper. The parents/children are allowed, in many cases, to select their own purchases.

The program often helps provide not only for warm winter outerwear for the children, but maybe an item of clothing for the parents 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. S.W. in Willmar. Checks should be made payable to: Warm the Children.

Main Street Willmar businesses will also be serving as drop-off locations for monetary donations in downtown Willmar. Businesses participating in the collection process include: Corneil-Eljker Agency, Elmquist Jewelers, Hardware Hank Express, Heritage Bank, Insurance by Strehlow, Jake's Pizza, Ken's Casuals and Rick's Cycling and Sports. Watch for the drop boxes and window signs at each participating location.

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 paperwork 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 charging; 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.