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Clothes for Kids – Portage Exchangites holding raffle to benefit annual charity

Written by Contributor. Posted in Community News, Featured

Published on September 07, 2016 with No Comments

by Steve Euvino

Peggy Berbesque, youth committee chairperson with the Portage Exchange Club, displays a scrapbook with club activities. Portage Exchangites are currently selling raffle tickets for the annual Clothes for Kids project to provide winter clothing for Portage Township elementary school students.

If you ask Peggy Berbesque how she became a Portage Exchange Club member, she’ll tell you it started with Clothes for Kids, the group’s annual charity.

During her first year on the project, Berbesque met a young woman with a bandana around her head and a toddler in her cart. She was shopping for her 6-year-old son. The woman was dying of cancer and her husband was out of work.

While shopping, the woman spotted some Pokemon boots she knew her son would love. However, she only had so much to spend and she wanted to buy her son some socks. Berbesque learned of the woman’s situation and talked to club officials about helping. They were able to help the woman through leftover funds, and Berbesque convinced her to get the Pokemon boots.

“It’s hard enough to be a kid in Northwest Indiana,” Berbesque said. “Children can be ostracized if they can’t go out and play. You can’t go outside in the cold with wet clothes.”

For more than 30 years, the Portage Exchange Club’s Clothes for Kids project has provided Portage Township elementary school students with winter clothing. Parents or guardians do the shopping at the Portage Wal-Mart and have $75 to spend on each child in the family. Sometimes Exchangites learn that a student in need has siblings who can also benefit from the charity.

“It’s amazing what you can buy with $75 for a child,” Berbesque said, adding that the club assists parents or guardians if they need transportation the day assigned for the purchases.

The club usually spends $8,000-$11,000 each year on children’s clothing. Most of these dollars come from a raffle currently in progress or from business grants. In the past, the club raffled a vehicle, but, due to costs, the club is offering a cash prize, with ticket prices dropped from $20, to $10.

The drawing will be held Saturday, Sept. 10 at 3 p.m. in the Arrowhead Shelter at Woodland Park, 2100 Willowcreek in Portage.

As Berbesque explained, recipient families are referred by their teachers and/or home school advisors who, in communication with the township trustee’ office, have determined that a student has insufficient clothing to stay warm and dry.

The Ogden Dunes resident recalled meeting a woman, homeless and pregnant, who was able to purchase items for her family through Clothes for Kids.

Berbesque has been involved with Clothes for Kids for 15 years. Today she chairs the Portage Exchange Club’s youth committee.

“You’ll never find a better group of people,” said Berbesque, who became acquainted with the organization through the late Pete Costello. He invited her to one of the group’s weekly meetings, and she’s been with the service organization ever since.

“We do have fun,” Berbesque noted, citing the club’s pancake breakfasts, pork chop dinners, and family picnics. Weekly meetings, held either at the Rosewood Restaurant or Clancy’s both in the Portage Mall, always feature a guest speaker.

Working with young people, the Portage Exchange Club offers several scholarships to high school students. The chapter’s other youth activities include a children’s ID program with the local police department, classes on Shaken Baby Syndrome, and a school backpack program.

A first-time project this year is called Veterans Matter. This program helps provide a security deposit for veterans who are currently homeless and qualify for a housing subsidy through the government.

The National Exchange Club spans the U.S. and Puerto Rico and has more than 20,000 members in nearly 650 clubs. The Portage Exchange Club was founded in 1970 with 30 members. Today its members work to uphold the club’s three core values – commitment to family, community, and country.

For more information on becoming a Portage Exchange Club member or to purchase a Clothes for Kids raffle ticket, call any of the following: Peggy Berbesque at 219-688-1671, Mike Lemond at 219-762-5764, or Brad Clapp, chapter president, at 219-916-9695.

The drawing will be held Saturday, Sept. 10 at 3 p.m. in the Arrowhead Shelter at Woodland Park, 2100 Willowcreek Rd. in Portage. The club usually spends $8,000-$11,000 each year on children’s clothing. Most of these dollars come from a raffle currently in progress or from business grants. If you go:  Weekly Portage Exchange Club meetings, (held either at the Rosewood Restaurant or Clancy’s) both in the Portage Mall, always features a guest speaker.

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