Warm the Children campaign under way

By Brenda Maguire

NEW BRITAIN — In just months, it will be time for snowmen, snowball fights and hot chocolate, which also means it will be time for coats, scarves and mittens.

Warm the Children, a joint fundraising program between the New Britain Herald and the New Britain Lions Club, is asking for monetary donations that will be used to help low-income children in the community purchase proper winter attire. The program starts today and will run through December.

“The kids deserve to have warm clothing in a cold world,” said Michael Schroeder, editor and publisher of The Herald. “If we can’t do something like that then shame on us.”

The children are selected by the New Britain school system and the Head Start program at the Human Resources Agency. When one child is selected, any siblings they have under the age of 16 will also benefit from the program.

Volunteer shoppers will take the children to the Target at 475 Hartford Road in New Britain to purchase coats, gloves, hats, boots, etc. Target gives about a 5 percent discount to the Warm the Children shoppers.

Target bills the Warm the Children bank account, so no money is exchanged as part of the purchase.

The New Britain Lions Club is sponsoring the program, helping to ensure that the donation is tax-deductible and assisting with accounting services.

The goal each year is to raise $40,000 so that at least 800 children can be provided with clothing. Last year, Warm the Children raised about $42,000.

“I think the program is a neighbor-helping-neighbor kind of program,” said Mark Bernacki, a downtown business owner who has been coordinator of the program since it started eight years. “It’s truly a volunteer effort to help the needy kids in our community.”

No part of the donation will be used for administrative fees or trickled back into the organization. Every cent donated will go to the purchase of clothes.

In the 1980s, Mack Stewart, of Haddam, was first introduced to a similar program while working as the advertising director for a community newspaper in Troy, N.Y. Stewart and his wife, Natalie, decided to put the program on a national level starting in Torrington in 1988.

The program now reaches 13 states and more than 30 newspapers. New Britain has the second-largest Warm the Children campaign, only behind Ann Arbor, Mich.

“We’ve been happy to do it. This is our chief charity program for the Herald and one of the reasons we’re involved is because it’s New Britain-based and every nickel goes into the fundraising,” Schroeder said.

To be a volunteer shopper, submit the advertisement on Page 5.

It can be submitted, along with any donations, to Warm the Children, 1 Court St., New Britain, CT 06051.

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