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The Sun letter to the editor: Warm the Children program makes the season brighter for community

Visible everywhere are Christmas tree lights, wreaths, poinsettia plants and other signs of the season, which make most of us smile and reflect on happy holidays past. Many children are thrilled that it’s cold and snowy outside so they can sled and make snowballs to throw at one another. Unfortunately, for a number of families in the Southtowns, it’s not such a happy time.

Picture teens’ standing in below-freezing temperatures, wearing hoodies because they have no winter jackets. Consider families who’ve been evicted from apartments, due to their inability to pay the rent. Imagine a family experiencing a devastating fire, destroying many personal belongings, including the children’s clothing. Think of children living with grandparents, including some who’ve lost their parents.

For families like these, Warm the Children has served as a beacon of light filled with hope and generosity. “Over and over again, I receive reports from our volunteer shoppers that families so appreciate the opportunity to purchase new clothing for their youngsters,” explained volunteer coordinator Elizabeth Angelbeck.

Warm the Children is in its 18th year based in Hamburg. The program helps youngsters in Hamburg, Angola, Blasdell, Derby, Boston, Eden, North Collins, Lake View, Evans and Brant – the circulation area of The Sun. Children are referred to the program through 18 local schools, five churches, four preschool programs and six human service agencies.

Since 2007, Warm the Children has been sponsored and coordinated by the Rotary Club of Hamburg, which collects and distributes donated funds to buy clothing for children in need. Rotary set up a foundation for the purpose. Each child accepted into the program receives new clothing, where there is the greatest need: coats, hats, pants, socks and underwear, selected by the parent who is assisted by volunteer shoppers at Target.

Children age birth – 3 years receive $50 worth of new clothing, while those age 4 – 18 receive $80 worth.

One veteran Warm the Children shopper recently agreed to accompany a family with eight youngsters. After a successful shopping trip to Target, she expressed thanks for having been assigned this large family. The reason? All eight youngsters had been lovingly adopted.

“I love this program,” exclaimed another shopper, who’s participated for several years. “It’s just a wonderful feeling to help little children pick out new pajamas and clothes that they can proudly wear to school.”

More than 350 children have benefitted from this year’s program, thanks to the generosity of donors, including the Russo Family Charitable Foundation, Hamburg Lions Club, Lake View Home Bureau, Zittle & Sons, Evenhouse Printing, Hamburg Music Festival and Lake Effect Chorus.

It’s important to stress that 100 percent of contributions collected are used to purchase new clothing for youngsters. Volunteer members of the Rotary Club of Hamburg handle all administrative and organizational tasks, with grateful assistance of Evans Bank.

One grateful mother of four children, assisted by Warm the Children, sent a letter to program coordinators, which read, in part: “Dear Warm the Children and personal shoppers: My family and I have been touched by your gifts of winter clothes. My older child was able to get a winter coat, gloves, boxers, warm pajamas, socks and a fleece-lined hat. My youngest was able to get a coat, hat, gloves, boots and eight pairs of Hello Kitty© socks. If not for your organization, I would still be without.”

The mother was also heartened when her personal shopper, as they were parting, gave her a $20 bill from her own pocket, to provide the family cereal and milk for the children. “Thanks to all of you and your amazing organization,” she wrote. “I know my children are to have a warm winter ahead.”

Partners in the program include The Sun, which donates free editorial space to aid rotary in soliciting contributions from its readership, and Evans Bank, serving as the program’s fiscal partner.

Essential to the success of Warm the Children is the legion of community volunteers who serve as shoppers. To donate, please make checks payable to Warm the Children and mail to Evans Bank, 5999 S. Park Ave., Hamburg, NY 14075. All donations received will continue to provide for late referrals or seed money for the next season.

Rotary Club of Hamburg
Warm the Children Committee

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