It may be cold outside, but one Christmas tree in a local church is being loaded with items to make the winter weather a bit more bearable for children and their families.

First Presbyterian Church, 2900 Hall St., is accepting donations until the end of December for its “mitten tree.”

For several years the church has partnered with Early Childhood Connections in collecting winter items to be distributed to the program’s children and their families.

Items needed are mittens and gloves, hats and scarves, and slipper socks, all in both children's and adult sizes.

Early Childhood Connections is administered through the Hays USD 489 School District, but also serves children throughout Ellis County and in Rooks, Rush and Russell counties. The program serves children through age 5.

The program’s goals, according to its 2017-2018 Annual Report, are to get children ready for school through sustained development and learning, to engage families in their child’s education and in the parents’ own personal growth and development, and to develop community partnerships to meet the needs of children and their families.

First Presbyterian Pastor Celeste Lasich said the church prefers that donated items are either newly purchased or handmade.

“These items are very much appreciated,” she said. “There are kids who lose items, or the items get wet, and they have kids who come to school without proper items.”

Donated items may be dropped off at the church office from 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays through the end of December. The tree may be viewed in the church’s entryway.

Donna Hudson-Hamilton, Early Childhood Connections director, said CrossPoint Church, Thirsty’s Grill and Pub, the USD 489 Foundation, Teaming Up for Tots, and private individuals have also donated to the program.

Monetary donations may be mailed to the foundation at 323 W. 12th St. in Hays or to the Early Childhood Connections Office, 2502 E. 13th St., Hays.