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‘Operation Snowstorm’ continues to provide warm clothing for students

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LOWVILLE — Many students in the Lowville and Beaver River school districts are staying a little warmer this winter, thanks to the annual “Operation Snowstorm” initiative.

“It’s really a nice gift at a great time of the year,” said Cheryl R. Steckly, Lowville district superintendent.

“This is just a wonderful, wonderful gift to the families in the community,” Beaver River Superintendent Leueen Smithling said.

Through a funding partnership between the Northern New York Community Foundation and the Dyson Foundation, a total of $12,000 — $6,000 for each district — was handed out to provide coats and other winter clothing for children in need.

An additional partnership with the Lowville Farmers Co-op on Shady Avenue allows the grant funding to go even further, as the store provides gift cards at a discounted rate.

“For $85, they give us a $100 gift card,” Mrs. Steckly said.

That has allowed each district to purchase about 70 such gift cards, specifically earmarked for the purchase of children’s winter clothing, for distribution to students who could best use them.

While district officials use the free and reduced-price lunch listing as a starting point, Mrs. Steckly said, recommendations from teachers, other school staff and representatives from outside agencies who work with students weigh heavily on which families are selected to receive the cards.

“You really try to get input from everyone you can,” she said.

Administrators also keep an eye out for students who don’t bring in adequate clothing for the winter season and check with gym teachers, bus drivers and other staff concerning their observations, Mrs. Smithling said.

Selected families in both districts were contacted in early December, giving them time to use the cards to buy winter clothing as Christmas gifts, if they wished.

While many don’t like to ask for help, they are very appreciative to be selected for the assistance during the holiday season, Mrs. Smithling said.

Whether reeling from a job loss, sustaining unexpected expenses or even having difficulty heating their homes, “these are the families that just so desperately need these things,” she said.

“Operation Snowstorm” and other initiatives at the district such as the Angel Tree program help to “make sure that nobody is going to be left out during the holiday time,” Mrs. Smithling said.

The program last year assisted 80 children in the Lowville district and 71 at Beaver River, according to a release from the Northern New York Community Foundation.

“With many families still struggling to makes ends meet, this program has made a real-time, real-world difference in the lives of children for whom the bare necessities are often a dream,” Northern New York Community Foundation Executive Director Rande S. Richardson said in a statement.

This is the seventh year the “Operation Snowstorm” program has been in place at the Lowville district and its second year at Beaver River.

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