Schools Urge Kids Dress Warmly, Offer Help for Families Who Can’t Afford Proper Coats

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MADISON, Ala. (WHNT) – We are expecting frigid temperatures for the rest of the work week, and they’re already here. Temperatures are expected to be in the single digits Friday morning.

The bitter cold is uncomfortable for everyone but as we know, for the youngest and oldest among us, consequences can be more serious.

Some systems have even decided it's too cold for school, making the call to delay in Friday's bitter temperatures.

The playgrounds are decidedly desolate these days - kids having to rely on 'indoor recess' or daily P.E. classes as an outlet for fun during school hours - but whether waiting at the bus stop or just trekking to the school-house door, kids will eventually be outside.

It's abundantly clear a simple hoodie won't cut it for kids in the bitter cold.

One Madison City School administrator is urging parents to dress students properly for the cold weather; especially students who wait outside for the bus.

"Today I had a couple of kids get off the bus in shorts and it's 20 degrees outside, so some of our kids don't have the attire or, kids are kids, they don't want to wear the heavy coats and the hats and the gloves," said Dr. Georgina Nelson, Heritage Elementary School's Principal.

"For those of you who have children riding our buses, please make certain to dress them in warm coats, jackets, gloves, etc.  Our kids are not accustomed to this type of frigid air we are about to experience and the bus stops can get chilly.  If your child needs warm clothing please contact me, our school counselor, or your child's homeroom teacher.  We have resources we can make available to you on a confidential basis.  It is our desire for everyone to stay as warm and cozy as possible - even in single digit weather. Brrrr..." - Dr. Nelson

Principal Nelson says she realizes kids often snarl their noses at gobs of cold weather gear, but urges parents to stress the importance of protection from winter weather.

"We know that kids are going to be kids and sometimes they may not want to wear it, but we are encouraging our parents to please dress them appropriately for this cold snap."

Dr. Nelson agrees every child should be able to stay warm in this current weather, even if their parents don't have the mean to provide proper coats.

Each school in the Madison City system employs a 'We Care' representative or team who helps confidentially coordinate through a school's guidance counselor help for students and parents in need.

The 'We Care' initiative is the same effort that sends needy students home with backpacks full of food, so families don't go hungry over the weekends.

"During this cold we have access to hats, gloves, shoes, pants - anything the kids would need to keep themselves warm," Nelson explains.

It's a collaboration by several Madison churches and civic groups.  Asbury Community Thrift Store, founded 14 years ago by Asbury United Methodist Church, is one of the largest conduits for area schools to receive warm weather gear for those in need.

Ann Pospicil has been the manager of the thrift store for 12 of those 14 years. In that time, she says she's seen plenty of giving.

"This isn't the first time people have been cold," Pospicil says. "One of the school counselors called me not too long ago and said she had a brother and sister coming to school wearing bedroom slippers, short pants and no coats."

She says as long as the referral comes from a reputable source like a teacher, the thrift store is more than happy to give.

"We would much rather err on the side of giving to somebody who doesn't need than to make somebody who does need go without," Pospicil says.

She says she always thought if the thrift store could have some sort of theme song, it would be 'From A Distance'.  Madison, with its affluent families and stellar school system - from the outside it may appear like most in the city are doing pretty well, she says. In actuality, statics show one in four Madison school children live below the poverty line.

"As we live in our big houses and look around we think 'oh, everybody's got plenty' and we're deciding what color coat to wear - [but] we've got kids who are coming to school, walking around who are hungry and they have no coats," said Pospicil.  "You don't have to look very far to see the need in Madison."

The thrift store's giving goes far beyond coats. Pospicil says they get calls from people sleeping on floors needing a bed, and they can call a local church and get that need filled rapidly.

Pospicil reports last year, the store's revenue was up 25% and they gave more than $100,000 in cash donations to community members in need - and that's in addition to the giving of coats, beds and other items.