West Michigan Parents Get Help Shopping for Christmas

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During this Christmas season, parents who otherwise could not afford gifts can pick out and pay for gifts for their kids—thanks to the Christmas Store for neighbors in the McLaughlin, Angel, and Nelson neighborhoods in Muskegon, Mich.

“The Christmas Store is beneficial because rather than being a program which gives gifts to families, it allows families to be a part of the process through purchasing new, quality gifts at a fraction of the actual cost. In doing so, a parent can say, ‘I gave this gift to my child,’ rather than feel inadequate for not being able to provide,” said Randy Vander Weit of Bethany Christian Reformed Church.

Now in its fifth year, the Christmas Store is a joint effort of many local churches, including Bethany CRC and Allen Avenue CRC, which hosts the store in its building. It was first coordinated through Community enCompass’s Healthy Neighborhood Project—a Christian community development organization connected to Bethany CRC. Over the years it has evolved; now it is organized and run by many of the same neighbors who have shopped at the store.

Gifts are donated by church members as well as local businesses and nonprofits and then sold at 20 percent of the purchase price. “A parent can pay $8 for a $40 gift for their child; if the parents do not have money to purchase gifts, they can volunteer at the store for credit dollars to purchase presents. It’s a win, win situation all around,” said coordinator Charlotte Johnson.

After being homeless for three years, Angela Marshall has been unable to find employment or provide Christmas presents for her kids. She is grateful for the ability to volunteer to earn credit to shop. “It gives me the feeling of being able to supply something for my kids that I provided, rather than it being given to us,” said Marshall.

Parents from the neighborhood receive a personal invitation to shop. Last year, 79 families were invited, and 45 volunteers spent 196 volunteer hours on the store.

“The store is done by neighbors, with neighbors, for neighbors, and Allen Avenue CRC is grateful to be a neighbor in this community,” said Courtney Vanderlaan of Allen Ave CRC.

About the Author

Daina Kraai is the Banner's regional news correspondent for classes Muskegon and Northern Michigan.

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