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Posted on Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 12:30 p.m.

Warm the Children donations drop 30 percent from 2011

By Staff

Donations to the annual Warm the Children drive in Washtenaw County are slower this year, leaving the program at less than half of its goal as it approaches the final days of the campaign.

As of Dec. 18, the program sponsored by had collected $109,764 from readers, down from $143,423 a year earlier.

The goal is to raise $250,000 by the end of the year.

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“Warm the Children is an incredibly important service we provide to the community, and we have had tremendous support over the years to help thousands of children in need in our area," said Laurel Champion, executive vice president of

"We are grateful for all of our community partners and individuals who give their time and money very generously to help keep these kids warm, and we're optimistic that we'll meet our goal."

The program works with the community to provide new winter clothing for 3,000 kids in the county. Recipients are chosen by social service providers and social workers in Washtenaw County schools.

The children are able to receive $90 in new clothing, which a parent or guardian chooses during a trip to Target with a Warm the Children volunteer. annually sponsors the program, and partners with United Bank & Trust and the Ann Arbor Community Foundation for additional support.

The program started in 1997 at the Ann Arbor News, when reporter Cathy O'Donnell sought to try the national effort in the Ann Arbor community. She told in 2009 that she expected it to raise about $40,000 and last a year or two.

But that first year saw readers donate $95,000 - and the program grew and continued, to the point where many thousands of children in the Ann Arbor area have benefitted from the effort. In 2011, 3,066 children were served by the program.

Every dime collected goes towards the charitable efforts. This year's donations will fund the 2013 program, which also will seek to outfit 3,000 children if the funds allow.

If you would like to contribute to Warm the Children, you can mail in the form printed in the newspaper, visit, or call the Warm The Children hotline at 734-623-2525. Donations also are accepted at any United Bank and Trust branch in Washtenaw County.


Paula Gardner

Sun, Dec 23, 2012 : 1:42 p.m.

@zip the cat, Cashiers get their first-hand knowledge from a 5-10 minute transaction with the recipient and the volunteer shopper. They perform a vital function (and many play a HUGE role in making the recipients feels comfortable while a stranger is buying their family clothing) but thanks to the way the program is set up don't have a role in making any decisions about who is served. Nor does store management (btw the program has moved to Target) I'm not clear on the nature of your bitterness here, but if you want to talk more about how families are chosen, let me know and I can put you in touch with my coworker who is the liaison between social workers at agencies and schools and shoppers. I'm at


Sat, Dec 22, 2012 : 9:07 p.m.

God forbid we should value the oversight of a trained social worker over that of "half a dozen or so (store) employees." (Were they polled?) Might we see some comments here from those very generous volunteers who have actually given their time to take excited children on these shopping trips.? (I would love to do this, but not physically able. Can only donate.)

zip the cat

Sat, Dec 22, 2012 : 7:52 p.m.

@paula gardner So I guess that the half a dozen or so employees that work at meijers are full of beans also. They have first hand knowledge of what goes on,but you wouldn't know anything about that. You rely on some social worker for your info.

zip the cat

Sat, Dec 22, 2012 : 4:58 p.m.

I know lots of people who stopped giving to this cause,myself included because who ever is running it does not screen the familys as to there need. If you can afford to drive a new caddy escalade,you can afford to put clothes on your kids. It reminds me of the free turkey giveaway a few yrs back that a church in detroit was running for the needy and news 4 was covering live. 99% of the cars in line to get there free turkey at the curb of the church were new high end vehicles. Who ever is provideing the info to is not telling the truth.


Sun, Dec 23, 2012 : 6:34 a.m.

Thank you Paula!!!

Paula Gardner

Sat, Dec 22, 2012 : 6:22 p.m.

With 3,000 children helped, I'm sorry this one example is standing as the representative to you of the entire program. Because I assure you that's not always the case. Some of the people with whom I've shopped have relied on rides from friends or family or public transportation. I realize you haven't had a chance to personally talk to a social worker who's referring kids into the program; if you had, you'd probably have another point of view.


Sat, Dec 22, 2012 : 2:07 p.m.

Is there a possibility that hand-me-down coats that are still in good shape can be donated. This may help as well.


Sat, Dec 22, 2012 : 2:45 p.m.

I doubt the WTC sponsoring entities are set up to receive, triage, store and distribute clothing donations, however gently used. Please consider House By The Side Of The Road, The Salvation Army or other or other local organizations for these contributions; they will be appreciated.

Paula Gardner

Sat, Dec 22, 2012 : 2:25 p.m.

This program isn't set up to process donations of specific items, but there are many places in the community that are able to do that. I give coats every November to the Reinhart Realtors coat drive (they partner with a dry cleaners); the PTO Thrift Shop on South Industrial also keeps donated items circulating in this community. Other readers may have more suggestions, too.

Brian Kuehn

Sat, Dec 22, 2012 : 1:02 a.m.

The fact that a couple local business organizations absorb all the overhead costs is a wonderful gift. Very few charitable endeavours can say every dollar donated goes to benefit the targeted beneficiaries. I salute AnnArbor.Com and United Bank & Trust for making this program successful. Do they possibly indirectly benefit from assisting this program? Sure, but then so does everyone, including me & my wife. Yes, kids can be dressed in good used clothing. The younger kids in large families have all benefited from hand-me-downs. Still, it can be tough going to school in donated used clothes when many or most of your classmates are fortunate enough to have new outfits. Life is tough for kids in families with money problems. If my donation helps someone feel better about themself, then mission accomplished. If one chooses to not donate, as I guess @justcurious decided, that is fine. When one chooses to not participate, however, I question whether one should complain about the method and sponsorship. Send your charitable dollars elsewhere and refrain from opinionated comments about other organizations.


Sat, Dec 22, 2012 : 2:34 p.m.

Mr. Kuehn, your comment says it all. Many of us have lived through past hard times. If we can now afford to help a child feel "special" for a while, we are blessed, rather than somehow being exploited.


Sat, Dec 22, 2012 : 2:08 a.m.

Mr. Kuehn, I guess you missed my response above where I said "someone whose mother sewed practically all of her clothes until she reached junior high.." I was one of two "poor" kids in Ann Arbor schools who was chosen to be sent to camp because I was poor. My parents drove me there and I cried so hard with humiliation that they brought me back home. You are preaching to the choir. I chose to give my donations to the Salvation Army who has a wonderful track record of helping people year round and year after year. Not just a Christmas time. I also benefitted from their kindness many years ago.


Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 11:48 p.m.

Have to agree with Jim. The community lost a great deal when the Ann Arbor news closed down. I know that's why I'm less aware of Warm the Children.


Sat, Dec 22, 2012 : 5:17 p.m.

Many of us in the community are less aware now that the printed version of Ann Arbor News is gone.

Jim Mulchay

Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 11:18 p.m.

The $90 does not go far - a lot depends on the age of the child; The younger the child is the farther (in general) the money goes. Boots or a winter jacket for middle and high school age students can eat up a lot of money real quick. As far as the donations - maybe we are starting to see what the community lost when Pfizer left; also - to me - the program was more noticeable when it it was in my daily paper - it seems to me that the electronic media has lots of appeals for money and Warm the Children might be getting lost amongst all the rest;


Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 11:02 p.m.

If the purpose of the program is to provide new warm clothing (coats, hats, gloves, etc.) then $90 could help more than one child I would think. Or is the goal to buy a new wardrobe? I think others are wondering this as well. I did go to the site and saw the benefits that newspapers can expect by joining in.

Paula Gardner

Sat, Dec 22, 2012 : 2:31 p.m.

One little insight into the spending: When I shop as part of this program, many parents are buying boots - and they're priced for bigger kids (esp ones who need adult sizes) in the $35-45 range early in the season before sales. I've also spent a fair amount of time in the last five years shopping resale for used boots. I keep my eyes open for deals for my own kids, and also have bought elementary sizes during times when I knew that schools were faced with lots of kids coming without them - so I'd donate them, knowing they'd find a good home. It's actually been difficult for me to find boots in decent shape. Kids seem to be very hard on them (a good thing if they're outside playing!).


Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 11:52 p.m.

arborani, no that comment was coming from someone whose mother sewed practically all of her clothes until she reached junior high and someone who finds wonderful barely used clothes for very little money at the second hand shops around here. This is a very wealthy community that discards their clothes easily, often without ever wearing them. Children do outgrow clothes quickly and often they are not worn out. Making the money go father just makes sense. Regarding the benefits to the new organizations, it is in the form of "look at us, we do good things". Most corporations have figured out the value in throwing some money to the poor.


Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 11:20 p.m.

Would someone explain the "benefits that newspapers can expect" other than the satisfaction of doing something worthwhile? Is this comment from the same source that, in an earlier thread, questioned the need for giving the children new items, instead of used ?