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A warm response to cold weather



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March 25, 2014 | 03:56 PM
What a winter it has been. That is a phrase heard many times in reference to many things, but it couldn’t be more proper when considering a warm clothing drive conducted even before the winter began.

When Ryan Mikrut, a former Lake Geneva resident living in Milwaukee, heard from a friend who is a teacher in Lake Geneva that in October, before things really got cold, children were coming to the school where she teaches without long sleeves, to say nothing of having warm coats or hand coverings for the cold weather to come. Mikrut pondered about such situations in light of what it would mean to any child. Familiar with such needs in her home city, it seemed very wrong for the situation to exist in Lake Geneva and she felt she must do something about it.

After consulting with her pastor, the Rev. Mary Ann Moller-Gunderson, Mikrut set up a plan to contact the administrators at local schools to see how she might be able to meet the warm clothing needs of the students.

With that input and the encouragement of all who learned about the possible project, Mikrut set about gathering warm coats, snow pants, hats and mittens for children, along with necessary sizes and other pertinent information.

The project was launched in October, with contact at the local schools and word of mouth appeals to friends, family and her church members. Items began showing up soon and almost 30 percent of them were new, although gently used items were accepted as well. In the end, there were about 200 coats for children, 50 pairs of snow pants, some boots and many hats and mittens. Adult clothing also was among the donations that came from the whole community, including collections at St. Francis de Sales School and the YMCA.

Next came distribution. Were there that many students needing items in Eastview, Central Denison and Star Center schools? When it became obvious the local need was not that great, Mikrut spread her collection to other schools and areas, including Reek School, another Walworth County school, facilities in Beloit and her grandmother’s own mission, the Sower’s House, in Villa Park, Ill. Adult items that had been donated were given to a soup kitchen in Milwaukee.

What happened to all these items between October and the end of November? They were gathered, sorted and sized at Immanuel Lutheran Church in its old facility at 1229 Park Row. Already in its own moving process, space was limited and areas were congested, but somehow there was room for most of the donated clothing while some found its way to Mikrut’s home and those of other family members until it was distributed.

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Some of Mikrut’s care and concern is related to her being the mother of 15-month-old Raedyn.

Thinking about her own child ever being in such a position made it even more imperative for her to be active in improving such situations, even for children she didn’t know. She also wants her daughter to know about those kinds of needs and that people must do what they can to relieve the situation.

Another source of inspiration for the project is her grandmother. She conducts a mission in Villa Park and hopes to open a children’s home that would provide care given by widows who need someone to care for. Her influence and support helped Mikrut, a graduate of Badger High School and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, carry through with her project.

Now, even before all the snow from this memorable winter is melted, Mikrut has plans started for a similar drive in the fall. Her plan includes contacting more local schools and teachers for specific needs. She hopes to make it an annual event. She feels it was good for the entire community and it was a way for more people to become acquainted with activities at the church.

For those who may want to become involved with the project in the fall, contact Mikrut on Facebook at Ryan Mikrut, or call (262) 745-6652.

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