Weekly Feature

2018-11-07 / Lifestyles

Warm Clothing Project marks 30 years of winter coats, boots to youths

by EMILY LOSITO Reporter

Amherst Youth Consortium members, Jillian Wojtkowski, left, and Sarah Crawford organize clothes donated for The Warm Clothing Project in 2017. Amherst Youth Consortium members, Jillian Wojtkowski, left, and Sarah Crawford organize clothes donated for The Warm Clothing Project in 2017. In 1988, the Williamsville Rotary Club wanted to throw a party for children’s families who were financially struggling, according to Kathy Mobarak-Miller. She said the club members were later convinced that what children really needed were winter coats and boots.

Once the club and the then Town of Amherst Youth Board joined forces, the Warm Clothing Project was created. That winter, 40 children were helped in two town schools, according to information from the Amherst Youth & Recreation Department.

“Since it went townwide, it became apparent that the need was all over Amherst,” Mobarak-Miller said.

The Warm Clothing Project, which is sponsored by the Amherst Youth & Recreation Department, receives referrals from 23 schools from the Amherst, Sweet Home and Williamsville districts. In 2017, 293 babies, children and youths were helped by resources in the areas, Mobarak-Miller said. These resources include residents, organizations, school groups and faith groups.

The program begins receiving donations during the month of November.

The executive director for the Amherst Youth & Recreation Department, Mary-Diana Pouli, said the Warm Clothing Project simply aims to provide for children’s basic needs.

“We made a very conscious decision many years ago that we were going to try to meet basic needs. Although it’s not a holiday program, because of the timing of when it happens, people are in that spirit,” Pouli said.

Thirty years later, the Warm

Clothing Project is still helping children stay warm in the cold winter months. Pouli and Mobarak-Miller have been involved with the project since it began.

“Over the years, the Warm Clothing Project grew to give the opportunities for school staff to build relationships with families who were struggling,” Mobarak-Miller said. “This was a concrete thing that the kids needed, and the families were open to receiving help in that way.”

Pouli said the project has also helped the department link families with greater concerns with resources that can help them throughout the year.

“All of the schools have programs where they’re helping families. We’re a small part of a much larger safety net,” she said. “We want to make sure people are getting helped and that we aren’t duplicating resources so we can help as many families as possible.”

Mobarak-Miller, who has been the sole administrator of the Warm Clothing Project, said all the items donors purchase go to the families they “adopt.”

“I have people ask if it’s OK to include an AMC Theater gift card, and I say, ‘Of course. Whatever gets donated to a family, goes to the family,’” she said. “People can get an energy as they donate additional things. … It’s just been awesome.”

She said there are even some resources and individuals who have helped with the program since it began. She added that not much has changed over the years.

“What hasn’t changed is I can’t sleep well until it’s all done,” she laughed. “And the people and the resources are just as generous and kind as they were 30 years ago.”

The program is always looking for people to “adopt” or sponsor children, according to Pouli.

“We pledge to folks that we’re here and we’ll continue to be here,” Pouli said. “Some years, it seemed like there was no way we were ever going to meet all the needs, but people in the community stepped up and helped.”

Items to be donated must be purchased by the end of the month.

The Amherst Youth & Recreation Department is located on the second floor of the Northtown Center at Amherst, 1615 Amherst Manor Drive.

Sponsorships and monetary donations are also accepted.

For more information, email kmobmiller@amherst.ny.us.

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