Warming up for winter

Local kids receive a helping hand

Photo By Kristen Luther
Siblings Samantha Black, 8, and Nick Black, 9, both received bags of clothes, enjoyed face painting, snacks and games at the Cold Weather Clothing Festival on Saturday.

By Jennifer Lassiter
star staff

  As the autumn leaves reach their peak and cold weather begins to settle in, kids throughout the county will be proudly zipping up their new coats in anticipation for winter, thanks to local volunteers and New Clothes For Kids Inc. (NCFK).
  The non-profit organization provides new and comfortable shoes, clothing, and personal care items to economically disadvantaged children within the Tri-Cities region along with several counties in Southwest Virginia.
  The first ever 'Cold Weather Clothing Campaign' in Carter County was held Saturday at the Elizabethton Boys and Girls Club, and according to the New Clothes For Kids Executive Director, Anissa Lyttle, it was a great success.
  NCFK partnered with the county and city school boards to assess the need in Carter County. Applications were sent out to families who were recommended and referred by teachers, guidance counselors, social workers, and other school officials with complete knowledge of individual needs. This process permitted NCFK to reach those with the greatest, legitimate need.
  Approximately 44 students from Milligan College volunteered for the festival. They provided face painting, snacks, and games for the kids. Families were encouraged to attend the festival, so the kids would have a chance to pick-up their new clothes and make sure everything fit properly.
  With a 16.9 percent of Carter County residents living below poverty level, 166 applications were returned. All requests were met for the families who returned applications, and for all those who couldn't pick-up their clothes on Saturday, the school boards will be securing all the clothes and guidance counselors will make sure every kid gets the clothes they need.
  The joint effort brought smiles to the faces of many kids, said John Flanagan, volunteer and a board member for the project, founded a little over five years ago.
  "The need is great and we are glad to be a part of it," said Flanagan.
  The organization began supplying clothes for 44 kids, and they now supply more than 2,000 kids annually. All the clothes are new, name brand, quality items which are given, not sold, to low income families.
  Lyttle began the organization when she recognized all the assistance with kids during Christmas time. "I began researching charities and I wanted to do something besides at Christmas," said Lyttle. "It just snowballed from there."
  The small un-paid staff attempts to build the child's self esteem and improve school performance and behavior. They are able to do this by purchasing clothes in bulk, off-season, and networking with retailers.
  For the Carter County Winter Festival, $9,300 was spent and $28,000 of merchandise was distributed to the kids of Carter County and Elizabethton. NCFK hopes to host a Back To School Festival for next year.
  "We are always looking for monetary donations, but we spent $18,000 on socks and underwear and we welcome anyone to start a socks and underwear drive," said Lyttle.
  If you would like to help or contact New Clothes For Kids, Inc., call (423) 292-1778, visit their Web site at newclothesforkids.org, or write to P.O. Box 215 Kingsport, TN 37662.