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Posted on Thu, Nov 22, 2012 : 5:57 a.m.

Be thankful, be giving: Consider Warm the Children for your support this season

By Angela Smith

In this hectic and troubled world, it can at times be challenging for some of us to find something to be thankful for. News of tragedy and disaster, of crime and terror reaches us from across the world, and in our own locales. Our own struggles can sometimes feel insurmountable.

But they are not. And no matter how bad things feel we can always find an example of someone who is struggling a little more than we are.

This year, when asked me to write about the Warm the Children Campaign, I was delighted. Warm the Children positively impacts thousands of households in the Washtenaw County area. This year, 3,000 children will receive warm clothes because of its support. Beyond that, hundreds of volunteers will give their time as personal shoppers for the program. I've been working as a volunteer for the program for the past several years. And I have seen the impact that the community’s giving has on the families it serves.

The volunteer shopping experience is simple, but may seem daunting. The idea of cold calling a stranger and setting up a shopping date for kid’s clothes seemed like it could be awkward. But the more I considered it, I felt like the perfect candidate for volunteer shopper. I’m a mom with young kids who knows her way around the kid’s department like Google knows its way around the Internet. In my mind, the night out promised to be a chance to get out and shop without spending any money of my own, in addition to an opportunity to make a difference for child in our community.

The first time I met up with a stranger at a store and assisted him in picking out needs for his family, I wasn’t sure what to anticipate. And neither was he. I explained the process, and he quietly went from rack to rack choosing warm clothes in the proper size, careful to consider favorite colors, and what items that would last through the season. I followed behind, tallying totals, to make sure we got as close as possible to the purchase order amount without going over.

Another year, bringing my toddler along turned out to be an asset rather than drawback to the shopping experience. The mother and I were able to quickly pull coats and gloves and hats together while her children energetically entertained my son.

Once as a volunteer, I dashed across town midway through the shopping session. An 8-year-old boy had been excited to find a big red winter coat, but all we could find left was a size 14. A phone call revealed that the coat was available in his size at another location. We caravanned over to it, and completed the shopping at the new location. The boy was over the moon to have the coat he was hoping for, and the parents were so gratified to see his joy.

Some of these families that the Warm the Children assists this year will be experiencing their first Michigan winter. Some are war veterans; some are just down on their luck, and needing an extra hand this year. As a volunteer, you don’t know who you are working with until you receive the assignment and call to arrange the shopping. But the impact of the community’s generosity and the time you donate is immediately evident to the people who are served.

On this Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for giving. I am thankful to be able to witness the support that our community willingly gives to young families in need of basic essentials. In giving, we find thankfulness, hence the beauty of the word Thanksgiving. May the holiday offer you what the Warm the Children Program has given me: a renewed spirit for reaching out and connecting with the world around us.

If you are able to help there are a number of options for doing so:

  • Donate. If you would like to contribute to Warm the Children, you can use the coupon or link accompanying this story, or call the Warm the Children hotline at 734-623-2525. Donate are also accepted at any United Bank and Trust branch.
  • Volunteer. Members of the community can give in a way that feels meaningful, even if they cannot afford to support financially this year. Warm the Children works with volunteers who offer their time as personal shoppers to shop with the recipient families. Each year, receives many notes and phone calls sharing stories of gratitude from recipients and volunteer shoppers alike. Sharing in the joy of the children and their parents has become a cherished winter tradition for many of the volunteers who help the families with their purchases. If you have an hour or two to help out with this effort, contact Warm the Children via the Hotline, website, or coupon listing below.
  • Spread the word. Do you know a family that could benefit from this program? Participation is based on need, and referrals happen through school and community social workers. Do you know of a group that is looking for a special way to give back to the community this season? Suggest they create an event to raise funds for Warm the Children.