NEW BRITAIN - In the past month Warm The Children has provided warm winter clothing for 750 children in 394 families.
As the shopping season for the nonprofit draws to an end, organizer Mark Bernacki is again expressing his thanks to the community.
The community not only supports the effort with donations but with volunteers. Every penny that is raised goes to purchase winter clothes for the children.
“It’s a win-win,” Bernacki said. “It’s truly neighbor helping neighbor. There are no salaries, only volunteers, and no overhead, every dollar we raise goes to children.”
In its 14th year, New Britain’s Warm The Children has provided warm winter clothing for more than 10,000 city children. A community effort, it relies on grants and donations from individuals, businesses and civic groups.
“We were able to provide clothing for all the children that were referred to us,” Bernacki said. “The schools and Head Start did a great job identifying children in need.”
The volunteer shoppers did a “yeoman’s job” getting 394 families taken care of before the holiday officially starts this weekend, he said. The New Britain Lions Club, which is the sponsor for the program, went above and beyond. It not only raised funds, but also provided goodie bags for 90 families and helped to match volunteer shoppers with families.
The program is driven by a partnership between a local service agency, The Lions Club, and a local newspaper, The New Britain Herald, so there are no administrative costs. All money donated goes to buy warm clothing for city children in need. Bernacki, the New Britain city clerk, has run the local program since 2004.
Like the prior two years, J.C. Penney at Westfarms mall was the shopping location where volunteers took the families to spend $60 on clothing. This year the store offered a 60 percent discount, allowing families to get roughly $100 in goods, he said.
The children who need help with clothing are identified by social workers in the New Britain schools and the HRA Head Start program. When a child is identified, their siblings ages 3 to 10 can get clothing too.
The Lions Club does fundraising and Bernacki obtains grants but the organization relies on donations from the public and civic groups. Warm the Children’s goal is to provide warm clothing to every child who qualifies.
More than 100 volunteer shoppers go with the families to pick out the items. Although this year’s shopping season has ended, the organization fundraises 365 days a year, Bernacki said.
As of Thursday, including a $20,000 grant Bernacki obtained, Warm the Children has received $51,096 in donations. The organization hopes to raise $54,000 to provide clothing for every child who needs it.
People can donate with credit cards by calling The Herald at 860-225-4601 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Make checks payable to Warm The Children Fund of New Britain and mail to: c/o The Herald, P.O. Box 1090, One Liberty Square, New Britain, CT 06050. Anyone who wishes to volunteer can also call 860-225-4601.