The charitable organization Warm the Children—which annually takes needy New Britain families out shopping to purchase warm winter clothes for kids ages 3-10—is seeking donations so that it can meet its annual goal of collecting $40,000-$45,000 to help cloth city kids this winter.
“Our goal is to raise $40,000 to $45,000 per year and we currently have raised over $30,000, and I know that we have pledges for another $3,000 to $4,000, so we are working towards our goal,” explained New Britain Town and City Clerk Mark Bernacki, volunteer coordinator for Warm the Children. “We target and tend to cloth between 800 and 900 children per year,” he added. “We truly have the neediest of the needy going through the New Britain School System.”
Warm the Children fundraises year-round, according to Bernacki, but most of its donations are collected between October and January. The group takes local families—who can spend up to $50 per child on warm winter clothing—out shopping at the New Britain Target during about a six to eight week period beginning in late November, said Bernacki.
“This runs through the Lion’s Club of New Britain,” said Bernacki. “We get referrals from the local public school system, the social workers there, as well as social workers over at the Head Start program. Once we get the referrals in, we generate purchase orders, and we have volunteer shoppers go out with the families to the Target in New Britain and they purchase winter clothing for the children.”
Bernacki stressed that Warm the Children is “truly a neighbor helping neighbor program,” adding, “It’s 100 percent volunteer. There are no administrative fees—there’s no executive director, no paid staff, no rent or electricity or anything like that; it’s 100 percent volunteer.”
In previous years, Warm the Children—now in its 11th year in the city—has had a waiting list because so many children were referred to the program. Fortunately, that was not the case this year. “We are able to take care of all the kids that were referred to the program this year, which is great, so we don’t have a waiting list like we did in other years,” said Bernacki. “We have had upwards of 1,000 to 1,300 children referred to the program and we had to scale back the age requirements a little at a time because we had so many children referred to it that we couldn’t meet the demand.”
Bernacki has been a volunteer with the Warm the Children organization—which operates in about 40 different cold weather communities in the US—for over 20 years, including in Middletown, where he was a volunteer shopper, and he helped bring the program to New Britain in 2004. “It’s a great program,” he said.
“The Lion’s Club is our sponsor organization that provides us with the 501c3 tax exempt [status] so people that do donate to Warm the Children will get a tax deduction on their taxes and that’s important this time of year for some folks,” said Bernacki.
Those interested in donating to Warm the Children can make a check out to “Warm the Children” and send it to: Warm the Children, c/o The Herald, 1 Court St, New Britain, CT 06051.