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Warm the Children turns up the heat on Old Man Winter’s frosty invasion

SPRINGVILLE — If The Old Farmer’s Almanac is right, we’re due for a bitter winter this year, and some are more vulnerable than others.

That’s why Warm the Children – now in its 19th year in Springville – has stepped up to help needy children secure cold weather essentials. “I think kids would do without, and it’s especially important [to help them] because of where we are – it gets cold here,” said Sharon Heinen, an administrator with the all-volunteer program.

“There’s nothing like seeing a little boy or girl with a new coat,” she said. “I hear the stories – especially from [school] bus drivers – about little boys and girls getting on the bus with a new winter coat; their smiles are priceless.”

According to Heinen, also an administrative assistant with Love In the Name of Christ, Love INC has spearheaded Warm the Children since the late ‘90s. Previously, the Springville Journal led the program locally, but after an ownership change at the paper, Love INC took the reins.

According to Heinen, need has only grown, since the program was first instituted.

“I think [Warm the Children] is essential, especially with the economy the way it is.”

Heinen estimated that the program helps approximately 90 needy children, each year. Applicants receive help on a first-come, first-served basis, though Heinen said Warm the Children is usually able to assist all applicants.

Volunteers for the organization submit paperwork to school nurses at Springville, West Valley and Delevan elementary schools. After applications are returned, needy children are matched with a shopper, who will accompany them to Wal-Mart in Springville. Shoppers help children choose clothing – coats, winter hats, boots, mittens, and other outdoor winter clothing – that they like and that fit.

All administrative and postal fees are absorbed by Love INC, explained Shopper Coordinator Lillian Case.

“Every penny that’s donated is used for the children. Love INC pays all the mailing costs,” she noted.

Rising costs have forced the program to scale back, in recent years. Heinen explained that the program once served all children under the age of 18, and would also purchase warm winter clothing, not just outerwear.

“I would love to see us be able to bring back those sweatshirts and thermals – more of that,” said Heinen.

“[The] $80 [per child] doesn’t cover as much as it used to,” said Case. “We used to [buy clothing for] anybody who could walk.”

But even during tough economic times, Heinen and Case said they have been impressed by the outpouring of support for the program.

“Donors are very, very generous. They are just wonderful,” said Heinen. “I want to thank the community for their generosity, and the vast pool of volunteers we have to work with. This is a great community for both.”

“It’s a necessary thing and I’m glad to do it,” said Case. “Over the years, I’ve had the same shoppers. Everybody enjoys doing it because they’re doing good. You know, when you do something like that, you feel good.”

Warm the Children is heating up just as the mercury drops. Love INC is accepting cash or check donations on behalf of the program, which can be mailed or brought to their office in at 62 East Main St., Springville, NY 14141.

The program also welcomes volunteers to shop for children or to help with administrative duties.

For more information, call Love INC at 592-3761 or email Look for Warm the Children’s ads in the Journal, in the coming months.

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