UNION COUNTY, IL (KFVS) - There are thousands of families in southern Illinois who can't afford to buy their kids new clothes for school.
But, now hundreds of those families are getting some help with clothes for their kids.
For the past nine years the Fowler-Bonan Foundation has been raising money through golf tournaments, and other events to help the kids get the clothes they need.
On Sunday, it was the 'Pick of the Vine' at Rustle Hill Winery in Union County where people gathered to enjoy some music, food and wine while helping out kids many of them will never get to meet.
"We're now able to supply clothes for kids in 11 counties, and we're helping out more than 500 children a year," said Dale Fowler. "We shop for them, we have volunteers who shop for them. The families will sometimes shop for themselves if it's an emergency situation. And it's all brand new clothes."
The foundation wouldn't be able to do it without the help of people and other businesses throughout the region.
The vendors at Sunday's event donated back a portion of its proceeds to the kids.
"I think it's a wonderful cause to know that we can help kids get shoes or a school outfit. I think it's just wonderful," said Lisa Yates of Opengate Custom Meats in Anna, Illinois. "And to know that you're able to help families in the community. And reach out and touch somebody in that kind of way."
The program works with local schools in the 11 counties by teachers recommending kids to the foundation. Then some tough decisions have to be made: who to help, and who needs the help the most.
But, in the end it's all worthwhile when a teacher relates a story about one of the kids.
"The need is incredible. And what's really powerful to us is when we do receive correspondence back from a school," said Fowler. "For instance just the other day a teacher said to me 'Dale, I have to tell you about the little girl that came running into my classroom and up to my desk saying teacher, teacher look at my new shoes and clothes.'"
New clothes may not mean much to some kids, but to others it can give them more than just a new pair of shoes to wear.
"We know from talking to counselors and teachers that it's definitely improving their confidence and self-esteem, which pays off in the classroom."
"It has much more impact on them. And for us to be able to share in that here with the other vendors and Rustle Hill Winery is just an awesome opportunity for us," said Brad Housewright at Opengate Custom Meats.
If you would like to learn more about how you can help kids in your community just click on the foundation's website at;