Christmas is on it’s way which means Santa and his elves are at work to make your presents at this very moment. Little did you know, Santa has another workshop here at GreenTree Church: Affordable Christmas. If you’re looking for a perfect time to give something special to someone else, the holiday season is the best time to do so. It all started with Jen Allen, Director of Community Connections, and a group of people donating gifts to Kirkwood families at the Kirkwood Schools to those that were in need.
“We’d get a list, and people would take a mitten [a paper mitten with the child’s name and gift ideas] that would have a child’s name on it.” Jen Allen, Director of Community Connections said. “Then they’d purchase a gift that they were requesting and we’d drop it off at the school.”
As enjoyable as it was for the parents, they wanted to have the opportunity to choose the gifts themselves for their kids, and that encouraged the staff of Affordable Christmas to change their ways of their Christmas giving. “Instead of just purchasing the gifts, we would put together a beautiful store: kind of like Macy’s on steroids,” Allen said. “Most parents really enjoyed picking out their own gifts for their children.” Christmas decorations such as gift wrapping and a Christmas tree were added to the store as the staff prepped for their opening. Members of the Greentree Church helped to pitch in donations for gifts and financially. The donations they’d receive they would then use to buy gifts to put into their store.
With the store complete and ready to open up to families, Kirkwood counselors from elementary, middle and high school, gave a list of Kirkwood families to the Affordable Christmas staff to then invite the families to shop for gifts. For their event, they have $25,000 while collecting only
$1,500 from it. The store opens on the first Saturday of December with different time slots for families to shop around with their own personal shopper. While helping to pick out gifts, their personal shopper makes conversation to get to know the family as a whole better.
With COVID-19, fewer volunteers are able to help set up this year to lower the capacity at the store at a time. Instead, more time slots were made for people to shop safely with 10 family members at a time. Affordable Christmas will have pre-packaged gift-wrapping bags as an alternative to wrapping all gifts by hand.
“The message behind Affordable Christmas is for families to get something they usually could never afford on their own. “They want to go back to school when Christmas break is over,” Allen said. “They want to show off their new shoes, or their new toys, or new Airpods.”
“It’s like a partnership,” Allen said, “They’re contributing, they’re picking out the gifts and then we will wrap the gifts for them, we carry them out to the car.” Allen said. “We even have ‘Prayer warriors’ that will spend some time in prayer if the family is having a difficult time or going through something challenging.”
Affordable Christmas has several volunteers from GreenTree Church that help to set up the store. Some of the tasks they have are being gift carriers, watching shoppers’ kids or setting up the store. If you want to help make a difference and get involved with helping a family have a happy Christmas, you can donate to their donations website, by selecting “Affordable Christmas.” Help spread the joy.