By Jill Keppeler
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — When the temperatures dip into the single digits this winter, and snow starts to collect on the ground, there are people in Niagara County who will have warm feet because of the actions of Megan Harvey.
It’s a thought that makes the North Tonawanda third-grader smile.
“It’s getting close to winter,” she said, “and I don’t want kids to get frostbite.”
Over the past few months, Harvey, 8, collected more than 1,000 pairs of socks as part of Kids Are Key, a state-wide program through the Community Action Angels initiative.
“Once a year we do a statewide cooperative event using volunteers to provide goods and services to people in need,” said Carol Palumbo, family development and nutrition supervisor at the Niagara Community Action Program, which coordinates the program. “This year we decided to take a look at kids helping kids, having them create projects to help other children and families in need.”
This year’s three projects, including Megan’s campaign, were each given $100 as seed money, which they could use in any way necessary for their project, including making copies of fliers or purchasing more supplies.
“They had to come up with a proposal and a plan,” said Dawn Harvey, Megan’s mother, who found out about the program through her sister, who works for the United Way.
The Harveys went to an estimated 180 houses in the area and put out fliers for Toasty Toes — the name Megan gave her campaign. Megan recruited friends through Girl Scouts. Three local elementary schools — Errick Road and West Street schools in Niagara-Wheatfield and Ohio Elementary, Megan’s school, in North Tonawanda — and Curves in Niagara Falls took up collections. Errick Road Elementary School collected more than 800 pairs alone. The winning classroom from each school earned a pizza party through Megan’s seed money from Kids Are Key.
When all was said and done, Megan collected 1,817 pairs of socks, everything from toe socks to leggings, from infant socks up to adult sizes.
“Her goal was 1,000 pairs, so she met her goal,” said Dawn Harvey. “I was very surprised at the response. There were a lot of strangers willing to help.”
The majority of socks collected were girls’ varieties, so Megan plans to use monetary donations she received to buy more boys’ socks. She now has a revised goal of 2,000 pairs.
“I felt bad for kids and people who don’t have any money to buy them clothes and socks,” said Megan, who received a recognition certificate Tuesday from the North Tonawanda Common Council and Mayor Rob Ortt.
Palumbo said that other Kids Are Key projects included the Diez sisters of Ransomville, whose garden project produced 125 pounds of fresh tomatoes and peppers for distribution in local food pantries, and the LaGamba cousins of Niagara Falls, who collected 600 Halloween costumes for children in need.
The participants will write about their projects after completion and will be honored statewide with certificates, Palumbo said. NiaCAP hopes to make Kids Are Key an annual project in the springtime, using the prior participants as mentors for the new ones, she said.
“I’ve done a lot of activities for community action in the way of goods collected and other projects,” she said. “Nothing tugged at my heartstrings more than watching these kids just take off with this.
“It was just a great thing, kids helping kids. It just doesn’t get any better than that.”
The socks collected will be distributed through NiaCAP’s three outreach offices in North Tonawanda, Niagara Falls and Lockport, she said, “so when we do holiday baskets, families will receive a new pair of socks.”
“Niagara County is an amazing county,” Palumbo said, “And no matter how distressed things get, they always raise to the occasion and give.”TO HELP Socks • To donate sock to Megan Harvey's Toasty Toes campaign, call Dawn Harvey at 812-8961. • To find out more about the Kids are Key program, call Carol Palumbo at 285-6134. Centers • The Niagara Community Action Program has three neighborhood center, including one at 216 Thompson St. in North Tonawanda. Call 694-9727 for more information. Other centers are located at 160 Washburn St., Lockport (433-6632) and 546 19th St. Niagara Falls (282-4375).