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New leadership for ‘Warm for Winter’ program

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Warm for Winter founders Jan Leschke and Gail Willcox, pictured in front from left, are handing over the reins to Darla Jansen, Carla Chropkowski and Jim Jansen. The next giveaway will take place Saturday, Jan. 28. Submitted photo.

For the Star Journal

Another Warm for Winter giveaway is set for Saturday, Jan. 28. Doors will be open 10 a.m. to noon at Friendly Village, 900 Boyce Drive in Rhinelander. A large variety of clothing, bedding, coats, boots and accessories are free for the taking, no questions asked and everyone is welcome.

For 14 years, the Warm for Winter program has collected and distributed free warm items thanks to founders Gale Willcox and Jan Leschke.

It began small, with the two women gathering items, cleaning, organizing and repairing when necessary. “The idea was not only to help those in need, but to recycle good things and keep them out of the landfill,” Willcox said.

The response was overwhelming, and soon they had more donations, more volunteers to help, more customers and a permanent location at Friendly Village in Rhinelander. 

Now the two Rhinelander women are turning over leadership to Carla Chropkowski and Darla and Jim Jansen.

Stepping up to take over the program wasn’t a hard decision for the three, who have been helping out through the years along with many dozens of dedicated volunteers.

“We’ve always had a lot of help,” said Leschke. “Donations from all over, not just locally. We feel Warm for Winter will be in good hands and continue to serve everyone. “

This year, WFW has received help from local businesses that have enabled the program to purchase brand new items to give away.

“We are grateful to the Chamber of Commerce, Northland Insurance and YMCA for their contributions,” Jim Jansen said. “We hope to get the word out that we have great new stuff to choose from.”

The monthly give-aways draw a variety of people, including young families, residents stocking up on warm clothing for visitors from warmer climates and teachers collecting a few hats and mittens for their students’ use at recess. 

Happy customers are the pay-off for the Warm for Winter workers.

“We love to see these items get new homes,” said Darla Jansen. “We’re also happy to accept contributions from anyone who wants to help out the program.” 

For more information call Darla at 608-345-7305.

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