Keeping kids warm: Effort marks 13th year
By RANDY CROUCH
Journal Staff Writer
MARQUETTE — For the 13th winter in a row, local businesses, organizations and people throughout the community are working together to help families in need by ensuring that every child in the area has winter-ready clothing.
Project Keep Kids Warm clothing collection is getting under way.
The project, organized by Wesley United Methodist Church in Ishpeming, has been a wildly successful community project throughout the past decade plus. Last winter the work done by Project Keep Kids Warm resulted in more than 300 kids receiving winter jackets, snow pants, boots, hats and mittens, all paid for by donations from local businesses, organizations and individuals throughout the Upper Peninsula.
“We won’t turn away anybody who comes to us that is in need,” said Project Keep Kids Warm Coordinator Dick Derby. “We have families that arrive in the U.P. from downstate or other places in the Midwest who aren’t equipped for the winter season. No boots, no jackets, no snow pants. Frequently, we become aware of these families through agencies like the Salvation Army.”
The Keep Kids Warm team is currently preparing for the upcoming winter season by asking everyone to get involved with the project through donations.
While the project mainly operates in the fall, the team works on the project year round.
“We stretch every dollar as far as we can possibly stretch it,” Derby said. “We purchase winter clothing with these funds all the time. We like to take advantage of spring clearance sales.”
In previous years, the project would collect clothing donations that culminated in a “free shopping day” at the Ishpeming Armory, unfortunately, COVID-19 made it so that system couldn’t continue.
“That was the biggest change,” Derby said. “As result of COVID in 2020, we couldn’t go on the neighborhood clothing drives like we used to. All of the clothing now has to be new.”
It almost came to the point that the organizers didn’t think they would be able to continue the program, but after being inundated with donations and encouragement from the community, the project went kept on going.
“This is the Upper Peninsula, it’s a place where neighbors help neighbors,” Derby said. “People are very responsive because that’s part of our culture in this neck of the woods. People really want to be a part of community outreach efforts like this. We are very, very thankful for the neighborly people here in the U.P.”
The project relies on local schools and organizations to identify families in need of the project’s help. When the team receives the information, they contact the families to see what items are needed.
Donations to Project Keep Kids Warm can be made by writing a check to the Wesley United Methodist Church and writing ‘Project Keep Kids Warm’ on the memo line of the check. Checks can be sent to:
Wesley United Methodist Church
P.O. Box 342
Ishpeming, MI 49849
Randy Crouch can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.