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Lessons in giving

Emma Kern got a hands-on lesson in giving this season. The 5-year-old spent Wednesday morning toting two dozen coats and two dozen pairs of boots into Our Savior's Lutheran Church for children in need.

Church coats
Emma Kern, 5, carries coats into Our Savior's Lutheran Church Wednesday. Her family donated two dozen coats and two dozen pairs of boots to the church's clothing exchange program for children in memory of her grandfather, Michael "Rex" Kern. Along with the clothing, the Kern family also donated $1,000 to the Just for Kids Dental Program, which serves more than 1,000 students in the Superior School District. (Jed Carlson/jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

Emma Kern got a hands-on lesson in giving this season. The 5-year-old spent Wednesday morning toting two dozen coats and two dozen pairs of boots into Our Savior's Lutheran Church for children in need.

"It's never too early for them to learn," said Emma's grandmother, Renee Kern.

Emma's mother, Angie Snyder, agreed.

"I think it's fantastic," she said. "It's teaching her to share."

Giving is something familiar in the Kern family.

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Last spring, they fed the hungry by donating $3,000 worth of food to the food shelf at Faith United Methodist Church. Last week, they clothed those in need and brightened the smiles of area children with another pair of donations. The funds for the donations come from the annual Michael "Rex" Kern Memorial Golf Tournament in honor of Emma's grandfather.

"I know Michael would have loved all of this," Kern said. "He would. He would've teared up right away. He would try to hide it, you know. He'd get real emotional real easily."

With the help of her friend Lisa Savoy, Kern spent $1,000 on the new coats and boots.

"It took us hours to do this," she said.

The items, a rainbow of colors, sizes and styles, were placed in the clothing exchange closet at Our Savior's Lutheran Church Wednesday. The program provides clothing for children, from newborns to size 14. It began about a year ago and is available to all neighborhood children, including those who attend nearby Cooper Elementary School.

"Folks from the parish come and give clothes and tend not to take much out," said Sarah Kerkes, pastor. "So it's open to the community."

Donations of new and gently used clothing are being accepted. Anyone interested in donating can call the church office at (715) 394-3472. The closet is open to the community one Saturday a month. In December, it will be open noon to 2 p.m. Dec. 4.

Kern wasn't done with her donation. She promised to drop off more items at a later date. Along with a huge discount on coats, the Kohl's store provided Kern with $70 in Kohl's bucks. She planned to spend that on additional items for the closet - socks and underwear.

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"I think like a mother," Kern said with a smile.

Another $1,000 from the Michael "Rex" Kern fund was given to the Just for Kids Dental Program on Wednesday.

"I think this is just fabulous," said Nancy Smith, Superior school district liaison for the program.

For three years, Just for Kids has provided access to dental care for children in the Superior school district. Currently, more than 1,000 district children in kindergarten through grade eight take part in the program, which is available to uninsured, underinsured and those on BadgerCare and Medical Assistance. The youth receive education, oral exams, cleanings, sealants, fluoride and dental supplies twice a year.

"It's a worthwhile program," said Renee's son, Keith.

"That program is such a gift," agreed Kerkes.

Kern learned about it from her son, who is a member of the Douglas County Tavern League. The league recently held a Sips and Slices fundraiser for Just for Kids. When Kern heard the dental program offered sealants, she knew she wanted to support it.

"I believe in sealants," Kern said with gusto.

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The program is funded through reimbursements from Medical Assistance and BadgerCare, donations and grants.

"We beat the streets a lot; we write a lot of grants," Smith said. And, she added, all gifts from Superior and Douglas County are used to provide services to children in Superior and Douglas County. For information on the program or how to donate, contact Smith at (715) 394-8700, ext. 147.

Michael Kern was a gentle man, a lifelong Billings Park resident who was always looking for a way to give back. After his death in 2009, the family chose to start the Michael "Rex" Kern Memorial Fund at Superior Choice Credit Union. They launched the annual golf tournaments at Poplar Golf Course. And they looked for ways to give back.

"The biggest thing is keeping everything local," said Keith Kern. And, his brother Kevin added, distributing it to many areas, not just a food shelf or single organization every year.

"It's easier to help a lot of people," he said, when you spread the giving out.

"It is a wonderful way to give back to the community," Kerkes said.

And, Kern hopes, a way to include the next generation in the cycle of giving.

Monetary donations are also being accepted to the Michael "Rex" Kern Memorial Fund, c/o SCCU, 2817 Tower Ave., Superior, WI 54880.

Related Topics: FAMILYHEALTHSUPERIOR
Maria Lockwood covers news in Douglas County, Wisconsin, for the Superior Telegram.
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