Many people greet winter with great enthusiasm, thrilled by its chilly beauty and excited to participate in the many activities that mark the season in the Upper Peninsula.
But for many families struggling to make ends meet, winter is a time of dread.
Not only do they have concerns about paying heating bills, they worry about how to keep their kids warm as they send them out the door to school. Kids grow so quickly, it can be a challenge to have clothes and boots that fit them as winter sets in.
People in the west end of Marquette County recognize the need for winter garments might be something their neighbors need a little assistance to meet and thus the creation of Project Keep Kids Warm, now in its fourth year.
Last weekend, bags were dropped off at homes throughout the west end in the hopes they will be filled with new or gently used winter clothes including coats, boots, gloves, mittens and hats for infants through teens.
Saturday, volunteers from the project will be going back out to retrieve the bags: 4,000 in Ishpeming and Ishpeming Township; 2,000 in Negaunee; and 500 in Republic and Michigamme.
Then on Oct. 26, families will be able to go to the Ishpeming Armory to pick out items for their children to use this winter.
What an amazing, practical way to help one's neighbor. Started by the Wesley United Methodist Church in Ishpeming, Keep Kids Warm now involves a growing coalition, including the Cross Bridge, United Evangelical Covenant and Faith Lutheran churches in Ishpeming; the Negaunee Ministerial Association; the Salvation Army in Ishpeming; the St. Vincent de Paul stores in Ishpeming, Negaunee and Michigamme; local Boy and Girl Scout units; the Women of Steel from the local United Steelworkers union; and area high schools all working in concert to help needy families in the coming bitter-cold months.
Project organizer Dick Derby emphasized that there is considerable need for clothing every year. He said a common misperception was that people think if they donated in past years, their donation wouldn't be needed or used the following year.
"The need for winter clothing for kids does not go away from one year to the next," he said.
And rest assured any items left over after the families choose their items will be used by St. Vincent dePaul, the Salvation Army, the Women's Center in Marquette, the D.J. Jacobetti Home for Veterans, Janzen House and area schools.
We thank the people who created Project Keep Kids Warm and all of those who volunteer with it. We hope every child who needs warm winter clothing gets it. What a wonderful way to start winter that would be.