CHAMPAIGN COUNTY, Ill., (WCIA) — Most kids’ Christmas lists are filled with toys and games. But, at one school, those lists are more practical. They’re focused on staying warm, not on having fun.
Kelly Mahoney, principal at Northview Elementary in Rantoul, said it’s heartbreaking when she hears about it in the hallways every day. This year, she said she’s seeing more kids need winter gear than before.
Organizations throughout Champaign County know there’s a great need, and are helping people of all ages throughout the area.
“It’s more so especially when the cold weather starts to hit,” Mahoney said. “You have kids coming to school that don’t have a heavy coat, or don’t have gloves or hats or mittens.”
Mahoney said when she hears kids talk about their Christmas lists, many just want the basics, like new shoes and new coats.
But, it’s not always that easy.
“This year especially I’ve had a lot of kids say, ‘I’m probably not gonna get anything for Christmas. Or, we can’t afford anything for Christmas,’” she said.
Mahoney is working to fix that. The school is providing kids with coats, shoes, sometimes socks and changes of clothes all because of the help from different organizations in Champaign County. Churches, small businesses and the American Legion in Rantoul are all helping out.
“The Bethany Church has a room that just has donated supplies for kids,” Mahoney added. She said she goes there and brings back gear for students. They keep it in the office and give it to kids on an as-needed basis.
Mary Catherine Roberson, the City of Champaign’s acting community relations manager, helps organize a clothing drive each winter.
“It really is powerful to be able to respond in the moment for people who are vulnerable and really have needs for some of these items that we may take for granted,” Roberson said.
People drop off cold weather items in boxes throughout Champaign, and the Park District distributes it.
“Sometimes it’s maybe a Park District employee looking out and seeing a young person playing and realizes they have a dirty coat or maybe they have no coat at all,” Roberson said. “Just to be able to have that stash on hand to give out as needed on site is just a really powerful tool for us to have, to serve our community.”
Mahoney said she’s thankful for many of the organizations thinking about those who need the support.
“It just helps our school connect more and more with the community. We are so grateful for everything that they do for us,” she added.
If you’re in Champaign and have winter clothes you’re looking to donate, the Park District and city have five different drop-off boxes throughout the city.
The donation drop-offs end on Friday, Dec. 16.