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Bundle Up: Annual event helps kids stay warm in winter

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For many families with children, each paycheck comes with a choice: Where can cuts be made in the household budget this month so more immediate needs can be met?

That’s the situation one Greenwood family recently faced.

Krista Hall had been spending less on groceries so she and her husband could afford winter clothing for their three children, ages 11, 8 and 4.

But thanks to Operation Bundle Up, the Hall children will be warmer this winter, and the family won’t have to trim the grocery budget.

Operation Bundle Up, which the United Way of Johnson County started in 2002, provides free winter gear for Johnson County families in need. Donations come from schools, individuals and thrift stores. This year, 1,800 coats were collected, United Way director Nancy Plake said.

Hundreds of people typically spend hours in line before the event. One of those was Franklin resident Scott McCombs, who needed four coats for his daughters, ages 13, 12, 11 and 8.

This is the third year McCombs has brought his daughters to the event. He is a stay-at-home father, and his wife works as an assistant manager for a retail store.

They don’t make enough to buy what is needed when the weather turns cold, he said. Adding to the financial strain is his wife’s recent surgery. McCombs said she will need to be off work for at least six weeks to recover.

They’ll need money for medical costs and Christmas presents for their children. To help cover their mounting bills McCombs said he’s looking for a job in retail.

At Operation Bundle Up, his daughters picked out coats in a rainbow of colors, from pale blue to bright magenta. The event means the family won’t have to find a way to cut costs to afford new coats or force their children to wear their coats from last year that no longer fit, he said.

“It would have to be a choice otherwise,” he said.

Last year, the organization provided 1,500 coats to 270 families. Each family can take one coat per child as well as scarves, hats, mittens and snow-pants.

Hall attended the event this year for the second time. She is a stay-at-home mother and her husband works as a welder, but one income isn’t enough for a family with three kids, she said.

She’s taking online classes to finish her degree in elementary education and hopes to have a job by this time next year. That would help the family afford new coats for the children, which can cost $50 or more, she said.

Franklin resident Bree Ramage waited hours in line to pick out new coats for her four children, Brittney Goins, 14, Cameron Popowitch, 11, Cobe Popwitch, 8, and Tristan Haun, 5.

A single mother, Ramage works full-time but can’t afford to get them all new winter clothing, she said. Ramage moved to Indiana from New Jersey two years ago, taking a pay cut at her new position, she said.

“It’s just the cost of living and raising kids,” she said. “They outgrow things so fast.”

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