Warmth for winter

Published 10:24 am Wednesday, October 29, 2008

With the chill of late fall in the air and signs of winter already beginning to show, the Mower County United Way is helping to keep area children warm with their Third Annual Community Outerwear Drive for Kids.

In conjunction with the First United Methodist Church of Austin, the drive aims to provide new and used coats, boots, mittens and other winter apparel to the children of Mower County.

In previous years, the drive had winter-wear for all ages, but the focus was shifted because of the demand for children’s-wear. Organizers believe that next year’s drive will also be focused on children’s apparel.

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Donations were made from Oct. 1 through Oct. 15 at drop-offs at area school and other partner locations. “The community was very generous, a lot of new items were donated, as well as a number of financial donations,” said Mower County United Way Marketing Specialist Chris Grev.

The items were then cleaned and prepared for distribution at the Oak Park Mall on Monday and Tuesday.

In total, 59 families signed up to receive clothing, providing around 148 children with new winter wear. The goal this year was to give each child at least coat and mittens, if not more.

The United Way was able to collect around 250 articles. Those not provided to children on the two distribution days will be given to area schools to be given out at their discretion.

“(The support) has been very strong all three years,” says Mower County United Way Executive Director Mandi Lightizer. She expects the program to grow, in terms of the amount of winter wear available and the number of partners involved in the program.

The event was made possible through the work of local volunteers. Alvin, Aaron, Josie and June Koehler of rural Austin were also on hand to help families pick out the right apparel for their children.

“There’s definitely a need,” said Julie, “There have been a lot of children in. It’s very worth while.” This is the Koehler family’s first time volunteering with the United Way, but they said they would like to be involved in the program next year.

To volunteer with the Mower County United Way or to make a donation contact them at 437-2313 or visit www.uwmower.org.