By Julie Lawrence Special to Published Jan 14, 2009 at 9:56 AM

As a new homeowner, the cost of winterizing and otherwise maintaining a warm house came as something of a surprise to me as the season struck with great force this past December.

We bought a classic "fixer-upper" in Walker's Point and while the price was right at the time, we've since spent the last three months doing all we can to make this big, old house a nice, cozy place to live.

Just last week we received the new windows we'd ordered back in October and while they are wonderfully efficient, we could only afford to replace a third of the home's total. The rest we've caulked and enclosed in plastic sheets. We've completely sealed off the back door and a large bedroom upstairs. Plus, we've added insulation to the previously water-damaged walls we've replaced.

And still, my house is cold. When the outside temperature hovers around the single digits -- sometimes even into the 20s -- it's nearly impossible to retain warmth in a large drafty house.

But, moving to the neighborhood I did has given me a different perspective about what it means to be cold. Just two blocks away from my house is the Hope House, a local emergency and transitional living facility and community center at 209 W. Orchard St. Since the late '80s it has provided a temporary refuge for people needing a place to sleep and when we experience winters like this, places like the Hope House are more important than ever.

I just discovered that the Braeger Automotive Group donated a supply of winter clothing, which is available to those in need on a first-come, first-served basis. They have the following items:

  • 25 Hats
  • 25 Long Johns
  • 17 Sweat Pants
  • 16 Coats
  • 15 Gloves (pairs)
  • 10 Insulated Flannel Shirts
  • 2 Coveralls

"Despite our cold business climate Braeger Automotive Group believes we all have an obligation to contribute to the warm-hearted spirit of generosity for which this city is known," says Todd Reardon, president of Braeger. "We at Braeger are fortunate to remain in a position where we can contribute to the well-being of this community, and it is both a pleasure and our responsibility to do so."

The Hope House provides outreach and educational services to help curb homelessness and accepts volunteers and donations.

Julie Lawrence Special to staff writer Julie Lawrence grew up in Wauwatosa and has lived her whole life in the Milwaukee area.

As any “word nerd” can attest, you never know when inspiration will strike, so from a very early age Julie has rarely been seen sans pen and little notebook. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee it seemed only natural that she major in journalism. When offered her an avenue to combine her writing and the city she knows and loves in late 2004, she knew it was meant to be. Around the office, she answers to a plethora of nicknames, including “Lar,” (short for “Larry,” which is short for “Lawrence”) as well as the mysteriously-sourced “Bill Murray.”