Fifteen years ago as Sunshine staff was gathering toys from churches and other individual donations, a conversation began to emerge. The question of how Sunshine can better engage with parents and include them in the work Sunshine is doing was processed. Instead of just handing out charity, they saw that giving parents and caregivers the opportunity to buy gifts at an affordable cost for their children actually afforded them a sense of dignity by providing new Christmas presents for their families. Because the majority of the families in the Woodlawn community live below the poverty line, purchasing new gifts is often not within their budget. Thus the Christmas Store was born in 2003.
On average 40-60 families are able to come through the store in early December each year to browse through all of the toys and clothes, which are marked down to 25% of the retail price. “Charging just 25% of the retail price keeps items affordable for families while also providing extra income that Sunshine can then use to bless families who may have additional financial needs during the holidays,” says staff Pete Blodgett, who has been running the Sunshine Christmas store for the past fourteen years. This year’s store took place on December 9th and saw 42 Woodlawn families participate.
Each year, Sunshine accepts donations from churches and individuals. The past few years, they have been able to create an online list through Amazon and Target that allows people to purchase items to donate. Some churches have also used it as an opportunity to come and volunteer in person. “This is a great tangible way for people to get involved in helping to bless the Woodlawn community during the holidays,” shares Pete. He adds that this year the most popular items were basketballs, footballs, Barbies, and pajamas.
Sunshine values partnering with families in ways that empower them to continue providing for their children and the Christmas store is one tangible way to do this. Through the generous donations of many supporters, the store continues to reach families in Woodlawn and many rely on this year after year to help provide a special Christmas for their families.