The Vilas County News-Review is set to sponsor its 24th annual nationally-recognized Warm The Children program, which seeks out families in need in the North Woods and provides new winter clothing for their children.

Even with the COVID-19 pandemic occurring, Warm The Children will take place this season with policies in place to help protect everyone involved. Shopping will begin Saturday, Oct. 31, at Glik’s in Eagle River.

With shopping needing to be spaced out to follow guidelines, Glik’s has agreed to extend the shopping period from its normal one month to Saturday, Dec. 19. Masks will be mandatory. A schedule will be implemented having time slots of an hour with up to five children per time slot.

There will be a 25% discount given off the regular price of the clothing to all Warm The Children shoppers. If sale prices are lower than the discounted prices, the lesser of the two costs will be honored. 

Sophie Singleton of Glik’s said that stock is in already. When the season begins, the store will be prepared for shoppers.

Parents and caregivers of children ages newborn through 17 who are residents of Vilas County or the Three Lakes and Sugar Camp areas of Oneida County are welcome to apply for winter clothes.

A two-part eligibility application can be found in next week’s newspaper. It must be filled out, dated and initialed before turning it in. The form will run for the next three Wednesdays in the North Woods Trader.

Applications also are avail­able at the News-Review’s front office. Staff member Toni Ruthven serves as program coordinator.

The program would not be possible without the generosity of full-time and seasonal area residents, as well as many clubs and organizations.

Fundraising efforts for the 2020 season have officially begun and the goal this year is $80,000.

Donations can be mailed to the Vilas County News-Review, P.O. Box 1929, Eagle River, WI 54521, or dropped off at the News-Review’s office, located at 425 W. Mill St. in Eagle River.

Monetary donations are tax deductible and are under the auspices of the Eagle River Rotary Club Foundation, a 501(c)(3) entity.

“Every dollar donated is used to buy winter clothing,” said News-Review Publisher Kurt Krueger. “The News-Review is picking up all administrative costs and is making all arrangements. Donations can only go toward clothing.”

Last year, more than $81,000 was raised, helping to clothe 470 youths during the winter months.

An estimated 45 area residents gave their time as volunteer shoppers.

This year, the dollar limit for each child age 2 to 17 is $160, and the limit for those under 2 years of age is $80. 

“This is an example of neighbors helping neighbors,” said Krueger. “We’re asking our readers, service clubs and businesses in Vilas and Oneida counties to help buy new winter clothing for the children in these families.”

Krueger praised Glik’s for stepping up its youth clothing inventory and options in a huge way the past two years, making it possible for the program to continue without having to rely on any outside stores.

“It would be very difficult to continue the program without a major local clothing retailer,” he said.

Krueger said they anticipate shopping for 500-plus children this year.

“Each monetary donation, regardless of size, will make a difference. It can be $5, $20, $100 or more. All donations will be recognized in the newspaper, unless the donor wishes to remain anonymous,” he said.

Last year, many individuals donated enough money to send two, three or more children shopping. Donations can be made in honor of someone such as children or grandchildren, or in memory of loved ones.

“Another great part of this program is the use of volunteer shoppers,” said Krueger. “We welcome anyone who can donate a little bit of their time.”

For more information or to volunteer as a shopper, contact Ruthven at the News-Review office, (715) 479-4421 or tonir­@vcnewsreview.com.

“Purchases are limited to clothing items such as coats, foot­wear, mittens, scarves, sweat­ers and other basics. Extravagant purchases are not permitted,” said Krueger.

The Warm The Children program was started in 1993 by retired newspaper publisher Mack Stewart of Higganum, Conn.

Recognizing the need for warm winter clothing among underprivileged children, Stewart intended for each community to be self-sustaining in operating its own program.

“It has been well rec­eived with great success ev­erywhere it is being done,” said Stewart.

Currently there are 29 Warm The Children programs in 10 states. Collectively each year they serve more than 13,000 children with $1 million in new winter clothing and footwear.

The program helped the News-Review win first-place awards for community service from the National Newspaper Association in 2011 and the Wisconsin Newspaper Association in 2015 and 2019.