Eta Nu’s Dress for Chill program continues to deliver warmth and smiles

BOYNE CITY – Boyne City Elementary School Principal Lisa King proudly admits she looks forward to the first day there is snow on the ground.

“I’m out every morning welcoming the kids with Ms. (Mary) Hickman (family bonding) and it’s so exciting that the first snow sees the kids in their new snow coats or pants,” King said.

“The impact that these clothes have on a social and emotional level, it makes them feel confident and it makes them feel good,” King said. “I can literally see it.”

Thanks to Boyne Eta Nu Charities’ “Dressed for Chill” program, a total of 187 Boyne City elementary students as well as early career and early learning children will be warm when they venture to outdoors this winter.

The annual community program, now in its 14th year, is organized and delivered by 20 volunteer members of Eta Nu.

Members shop, organize, tidy up and ultimately outfit the kids with all the new jackets, snow pants, boots, hats and mittens.

Charlotte Battjes, president of the project, said this year was the most children the group had ever equipped.

The 187 children who were equipped this year were 20 more than the previous year.

“It could have been because of the pandemic and with people’s financial situation I’m not sure,” Battjes said. “I’m not sure exactly why the numbers are going up, actually.”

Battjes, who has chaired the Dress for Chill program for the past three years and has been involved with the program for a total of six years, said the program started years ago when it was brought to the attention from an Etu Nu member over there. was a real need for children’s clothing.

“They couldn’t go out for recess because they didn’t have clothes to wear,” Battjes said. “So some of the women I’ve worked with from the start said we would get the money and buy outfits once we get the money, that’s how it is at the beginning.”

As the program began to develop, Battjes said it had gained a good reputation and that they had been blessed with generous donations.

“We have come to the point where we now have the money and we can buy in advance,” Battjes said. “We buy ahead when things are on sale and the women who make the clothes are the real driving force behind Dress for Chill. It is very, very difficult to find things that fit you, and they have a very detailed list of things to find. that will suit. Snow pants are the most difficult thing for kids to outfit, manufacturers just don’t make them fit well. “

Battjes said that after each Dress to Chill program ends and the kids are dressed in their new outfits, the group of 20 volunteers have a wrap-up meeting to discuss what they could do to make things better.

“The closure of the JCPenney’s store in Petoskey has been a great success for our committee,” Battjes said. “They (JCPenney) were very, very helpful and would call our buyers to let them know we had a sale and they would make sure we got the best discounts possible and that they were local. We do our best to buy. local, but you can’t always do that. “

Even though this year’s student group is now ready for the winter months, volunteers are already starting to shop for those who will need new clothes next year.

Battjes said the global supply chain shortage affected their project slightly and it was difficult to find boys’ boots.

However, providing for nearly 200 local children in the fall is Battjes’ ‘best day of the year’.

“When we dress these kids, you just can’t imagine,” Battjes said. “It’s a very, very logistical process, but I’m telling you we have such a group of capable women and it’s a very well-oiled machine. I’ve worked in the corporate world for 35 years and I never worked with such a great team that is capable. No one has an ego and we are all here to get the job done. “

Battjes said that after the group outfitted Boyne City Primary School this year, Principal King spoke to volunteers at the school.

“She said you wouldn’t believe what these new clothes mean to some of these kids and what they’re doing for their self-esteem,” Battjes said. “They tell him about it five months later and they’re still talking about their new jacket or coat.

“When these ladies started this they just wanted to make sure the kids were dressed warmly, they didn’t realize it would affect their self-esteem,” Battjes added. “She (King) made us all cry when she came to talk to us, we were all in tears because she told us stories.”

King said the Dressed for Chill volunteers are truly a blessing.

“They give so much love with the coats,” King said. “Charlotte is one of the most generous people I have ever met and they put their heart into it. It is a very beautiful thing to see. They also choose a few families to outfit the whole family each year.”

Battjes also said it was Hickman who introduced her and the volunteers to Google Sheets, which gave Battjes access to a live inventory of what was needed when it came to sizing.

“It made a real difference and made things more efficient,” Battjes said. “The schools have been a real joy to work with. I’m so blessed to be a part of them and it’s a real joy for me. It’s not a burden at all to do it. I love people with it. who I work at school. “

The Dress for Chill project is truly a community-wide project, Battjes added.

Big business funding comes only from donations from local organizations, businesses and individuals.

This year the following companies have contributed to the project: Barden Lumber, Bob Mathers Ford, Boyne Arts Collective, Boyne Valley Lions Club, FOE Aerie 1583, FOE Aerie Ladies Auxiliary, Gold Charitable Fund, Henderson Charitable Trust, Lynda’s Real Estate Service, Knights de Colomb, Pat O’Brien and Associates, Rotary Club of Boyne City, Schmidt Community Fund, St. Matthews Church, Stowe Family Fund through the Charlevoix Community Foundation and the Women’s Club.

Boyne City Elementary School student looks in the mirror after receiving new winter clothes as part of the Dress for Chill at school event.

“For some of these kids, maybe their whole life has been second-hand or thrift store items, not that there was something wrong with the thrift store items,” King said. “They get really, really cool, branded items and they go head to toe.

“The ladies come here and they hang out and connect with the kids, they make sure they like what they have and I think one of the important aspects is as the seasons go by, they make sales. wherever they go, ”King added.

Boyne Eta Nu Charities, which is a 501 (c) 3 charity, accepts donations for the Dress for Chill 2022 project. Checks can be made payable to Eta Nu Charities (DFC written on the memo line) and sent to PO Box 133, Boyne City, MI 49712.

Members of the Boyne Eta Nu Charities pose for a photo during this year "Dress for Chill" program in Boyne City.

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