A Christmas shop where parents can buy new or gently used toys and other items helps people with low incomes provide Christmas gifts for their children without blowing the budget.
The annual Christmas shop is just one part of Operation Sharing, a 46-church ministry network that includes Ingersoll (Ontario) Christian Reformed Church and Maranatha and Covenant CRCs of Woodstock, Ontario.
The ministry also provides specialized food cards redeemable in local stores, cooking classes, budget planning, and more. Those are some of the ways to give people in their community a hand up rather than a handout, according to John Klein-Geltink of Ingersoll CRC.
Much of the ministry activity is done through two community outreach sites in Woodstock and Ingersoll. That's where people can take classes, get help filling in forms, and even find partner mentor families.
It's all about building relationships while equipping people to find solutions to problems they face. “People will come to the drop-in center for food cards, but they often come back when they have other issues,” said Klein-Geltink.
Running the Christmas store with volunteers keeps prices at a minimum. Children can also get help choosing and wrapping gifts for their parents.
Klein-Geltink says that his church’s involvement started seven years ago when deacons, recognizing the need for poverty relief that went beyond handouts, began to look at work that was already being done in the area. They found Operation Sharing, whose mission is to work with people, not for them, addressing the root causes of poverty.
Between the two sites, Klein-Geltink estimates that the mission reaches about 1,000 households. Some, he says, have come to faith through the mission.
“They see how they’ve been treated here, and they respond to that.”