Free winter clothes for needy kids, but few takers

  1. Listen Linda Bowar talks with MPR News’ Tom Crann

A good person has to feel for Linda Bowar of Rochester, who did something about the fact that there are too many kids without appropriate winter gear for Minnesota’s dark months. Or, at least, she tried to do something.

“I know there are so many kids out there who need this,” Bowar tells the Rochester Post-Bulletin. “I see the need every day.”

So do a lot of other people, including the people who are in charge of deciding whether to cancel school, partly because kids without proper clothing would be forced to wait at a bus stop in freezing weather.

She solicited new gear from area merchants and organized a giveaway on Saturday.

Hardly anyone showed up, the newspaper reports.

The effort got started in early December when Bowar, a school bus driver for First Student, was touched by one of the kids on her bus. “I had a little boy get on my bus crying because he was so cold,” she said. “He told me his mother had no money to buy a new winter coat for him. It broke my heart.”

After her bus route, Bowar went into action. She went to the JC Penney store at Apache Mall, where she was able to tell the story and purchase at a discount a complete winter outfit for her young bus rider.

“I gave it to him that night, and the next morning his mom came with a batch of cookies they had baked,” Bowar said. “That’s when I said, ‘I’ve got to do more.'”

It wasn’t that the giveaway wasn’t publicized. It wasn’t that the location wasn’t easy to get to.

But it’s not entirely clear why so few people took advantage of Bowar’s generosity.

She’s left with dozens of new hats, coats, and mittens but is vowing to figure out a way to give them all away.

  • Jim G

    I know that this is more labor intensive, but here’s an idea. Pick an elementary school, any elementary school… then arrange to hang out with the staff supervising the kids before school in the morning or recess n the afternoon. Observe. The staff members on duty will be able to generate the names of the kids seen without the proper winter attire; hats, gloves, mittens, and coats. Later, when the bell rings and kids return to their classes, the fun part will be a quiet offer of the missing items.

  • Veronica

    Give them to school social workers to hand out. Done.

    Or…give them to the local domestic abuse shelters. Done.

    It’s not that hard. Having organized quite a few efforts myself, it’s simply the best to use existing channels to address these kind of needs.

  • mom

    most efforts like this begin with someone finding the families who are in need, identifying the items needed, and THEN requesting that donors provide things. (think– if you were a broke parent whose child didn’t have proper winter gear, would you want to show up at a public place to advertise that fact and take a handout?) There are also kids who do have the proper gear but refuse to wear it. I am the parent of a couple. They carry their (warm, expensive) mittens in their backpacks…

  • Deidre Enyart

    I’m a teacher in the Robbinsdale district. I can’t find a place to get coats, boots, hats and gloves for students in need. Students who have just transferred to our school are often the students who need these clothing items. Since we did try to collect gently used items, and give them away when the weather first became cold, most resources are no longer available. Do you know of a place that still has coats and boots for children who are sizes 12-16 (or a small adult)?

  • davehoug

    If a parent doesn’t care enough to prepare their child with winter clothing…….what else doesn’t the parent care about, say maybe a trip on a Saturday to get freebies???