BELDING — Like all children who outgrow their clothes on a yearly basis, 9-year-old Victoria Cowlyng of Belding needed a new pair of snowpants this winter.
The Woodview Elementary School fourth-grader had outgrown her previous winter gear, and with no shortage of snow on the ground, she was eager to get outside and play with her friends.
But tight financial restraints made it difficult for her family to acquire a new pair for her this year.
“I have to get new ones every year,” she said. “It’s been hard to get out in the yard, our whole driveway is ice, and it’s very cold.”
Knowing that Cowlyng is not alone and that many students and their families cannot afford items such as snow pants or thicker winter jackets, members of the Belding VFW Auxiliary continued their mission this year to help in solving that problem.
In January, Auxiliary commander John Kenny and member Mary Jo Baily personally delivered more than 200 pairs of snow pants, 50 jackets, and many pairs of gloves, boots and hats to students at Woodview, Ellis Elementary School, Belding Middle School and Threshold Academy.
The VFW Auxiliary raises funds every year, and has done so for nine years, through chicken barbecues and other fundraising activities, always with a goal to raise $2,000 to purchase winter gear for young students.
“You don’t want to see any kid going cold,” Kenny said. “You’d be amazed at the number of kids this year that didn’t have boots or snow pants. No kid should be without a coat, snow pants, hat or gloves.”
Kenny said it was especially difficult this year to acquire the winter gear as many stores were out of stock, especially with snow pants, as this year’s winter season struck early with heavy amounts of snow.
But after approaching the Belding Dollar Store, as well as the Kmart and Meijer stores of Greenville, each stores made sure to notify the VFW Auxiliary when new deliveries had arrived.
“It was a tough chore getting snow pants this year because they went off the shelf in a hurry,” Kenny said. “But when they came in, they called and let us know. They saved the day.”
At Woodview, school social worker Brett Newman said 13 pairs of snow pants, three coats and six sets of hats and gloves were donated.
“It’s really been a big help,” he said. “They were generous to donate a little more than we asked, so we even have some backup clothing now in case we need them.”
According to Newman, students who don’t have the appropriate winter clothing are limited to what they can do during designated recess times outdoors on the school’s playground.
Due to ice accumulation, students without snow pants are not allowed to travel across any areas with hardened blacktop.
“Not having snow pants, coats, it really restricts what they can do outside,” he said. “They need them to be able to access the entire playground.”
But with the donation from the VFW Auxiliary, students can now enjoy their time outdoors without worry of becoming too cold.
“The families and Woodview staff really appreciate everything the Belding VFW does for us,” said Woodview Elementary School Principal Bruce Cook. “In providing us with snow pants, boots and coats for our students, it means a lot. Our students can go outside and play and stay warm. It’s a big help to our community.”
Now more than a month since the clothing was since delivered, visiting Woodview Tuesday was a delight for Bailey, who took in the smiles of several students fully geared in their new snow pants.
“I love it, it’s so nice to help all of these different schools,” she said. “It was just awesome to see them here enjoying them. Some of them were previously wearing clothing with broken zippers and ripped pants. They couldn’t play at recess, but now they can.”