NEW BRITAIN – For 17 years Warm the Children has clothed over 10,000 local children with quality winter clothing. Despite the pandemic, hope remains high that the community will continue its outpouring of support during challenging times.
“It’s definitely going to look different this year but we are still aiming to clothe as many kids as we can,” said Stephanie Frank, a New Britain Lions Club volunteer coordinator who is spearheading the fundraising event this season.
The campaign is off to a good start this year by receiving $10,000 in city grants to help with fundraising efforts. Last year they received about $15,000. In 2018, the charity took a hit when organizations receiving federal grants were limited by the Common Council. With no overhead, Warm the Children relies strictly on donations, grants and the volunteers to provide $60 in warm clothing to 700 to 900 city children. For the sixth year in a row, JC Penney at Westfarms Mall will be the shopping location where volunteers will take families and their children to shop for clothes.
All proceeds will go directly to purchasing warm clothes for the children between ages 3 and 10. There are no administrative costs and volunteer shoppers from various local organizations will be able to go shopping with the children or a family member to pick out coats, hats, and gloves. Many volunteer shoppers are from New Britain Elks Lodge #957, New Britain Lions Club, Greater Hartford Church of Christ members, and New Britain teachers and social workers.
The biggest difference this year is limiting the number of people for the shopping trips, said Frank. In order to adhere to social distancing guidelines and to stay on the safe side, volunteer shoppers are asking families to limit the outing to a single representative if possible and face masks are mandatory.
“If it’s just a parent, that would be great, since they know their kid’s sizes anyway. But we also expect people might want their whole families to be there so we will adjust to that and keep the numbers low,” Frank said.
She estimates that the organization will need between $40,000 and $50,000 to make sure every child who qualifies to receive the clothing does. The amount is an average estimate for each year and with the pandemic, Frank said they expect donations to be lower but remains hopeful that those who are able to donate will still do so. Frank also hopes that they will be able to identify all the children in need by the end of the month so shoppers can start their shopping at the beginning of November.
The children who need help with clothing are identified by social workers in the New Britain Consolidated School District and the HRA Head Start program. When a child is identified, their siblings ages 3 to 10 can also get clothing. The charity is aiming to help about 850 children total.
Last year they were able to give clothing to 730 children.
Mark Bernacki, New Britain town and city clerk, got the charity started in the city 17 years ago and said they started working on getting the grant funding at the beginning of the year and was very glad to have been able to get that going.
“This is probably going to be the most challenging year because of many different things, covid-19 being one of the major driving forces,” he said. “It will change how Warm the Children basically operates to a degree. A lot people are out of work, a lot of people are hurting, so we are anticipating a little downsize in terms of what we can raise but we are up to the challenge.”
Donations are needed from now until late December to meet the goal of providing warm clothing to an estimated 850 children.
People can donate by check or credit card by calling The Herald at 225-4601 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Make checks payable to Warm the Children Fund of New Britain and mail to: P.O. Box 1090, New Britain, CT 06050. Anyone who wishes to volunteer can call 860-225-4601.