Leadership Jackson County project team creates Kozy Kidz program


Since 1990, the We Care effort has provided warm winter clothing to 31,446 underprivileged schoolchildren in Scott County.

It started as an 11-hour auction that raised just more than $14,000 and has grown to a 30-hour auction on the first full weekend in December bringing in more than $46,000 this past year. To date, more than $1.8 million has been raised, and 31,446 children have been helped.

The nonprofit organization, based at I 105.3 WMPI radio station in Scottsburg, is staffed with hundreds of volunteers who work year-round to organize fundraisers and collect items to auction.

The eligible children are chosen during the school year by teachers, principals and other school district officials who compile a list and submit it to We Care. After the auction, checks are dispensed to the proper personnel who in turn purchase what is needed to suit each individual child.

Seeing the success of the program in Scott County, this year’s Leadership Jackson County youth project team — Adam Brooks, Karen Haas and Daniel Luecke — want to get something similar started in Jackson County.

"A big part of the program is 100% of the money raised goes toward buying those items," Brooks said. "None of it goes anywhere but to that, so a lot of volunteers are involved in the whole organization. The community and the people in the community are extremely proud of this program. It’s something we definitely think could be great here in Jackson County, as well."

Initially, Brooks said they had a simple goal to help the children of Jackson County, and they thought big and wanted the warm winter clothing to go to all county schools.

Haas said they then asked themselves "How could we help these kids and what would this look like?"

"With the intention of loosely modeling our program after Scott County’s program, we took our ideas a step further and gave it a name and logo, Kozy Kidz," she said.

They knew they wanted to do an online auction and get a couple of radio stations on board to help with promotion and local businesses to provide goods and services. They also knew they would work with guidance counselors at each school to help identify children in need and see what the kids need most.

Then came some challenges.

Luecke said the group realized they needed a 501(c)(3) to help with the financial aspect of the program to keep funds secure and accounted for, and they also needed some more manpower since they are only a group of three people. Plus, the school guidance counselors already have a big workload, so helping facilitate this program would add to that.

Haas said they then tried to think of a way to serve the need in Jackson County on a smaller scale.

They came up with serving students in need at a couple of the Seymour schools instead of all county schools. They would do that through an online auction and various fundraisers throughout the year so coats, socks, hats, gloves, boots, sweaters and sweatshirts could be purchased.

Their focus changed after seeing a quote: "If you’re dreaming big, don’t be discouraged if you have to start small."

"That really spoke to me and spoke to us," Haas said. "(All of the Leadership Jackson County project teams) started a little bit big, we all started to have to change to scale back and to determine what we really wanted to go after."

This is where people in the county can help: A fiscal agent, or someone to help funnel the funds raised, is needed.

"We’re looking for any and all help. We’re looking for any and all ideas," Haas said. "We’d like to partner with an organization to help us, so this is just kind of a call to action. We have many (people) that might have an idea for us that we haven’t thought of yet. I’d be happy to talk to you about your ideas you might have."

If any business, organization or individual wants to help get Kozy Kidz going in Jackson County, call Haas at 630-440-2174.

"We want to bridge the gaps in these different schools by filling individual needs that they might have beyond winter clothing," Haas said. "We want to grow the program to help all Jackson County schools, as well. That’s what our intention is."

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If any business, organization or individual is interested in helping start the Kozy Kidz program to provide warm winter clothing to kids in need in Jackson County, call Karen Haas at 630-440-2174.


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