Each December in communities across the United States, local churches and agencies hold “adopt-a-family” events to help provide Christmas gifts to low-income families. For many years, UCC-related Isaiah 58 Ministries in St. Louis partnered with one such program, but saw the need to serve even more families. So six years ago, it expanded the idea. Today, Isaiah 58 Ministries’ Christmas Store helps some 100-150 families provide presents to their loved ones.
This year, the Christmas Store was open Dec. 10-12. “We set up a store in our fellowship hall and allow people to shop, pricing items anywhere from $.25 to $5 based on the size and value of the item,” says the Rev. Brenda Booth, executive director. “If people cannot afford even these minimal costs, we offer them a voucher to get gifts for their family. But we have found that people want to pay, even if just a little. It gives them pride knowing they were able to purchase gifts for their families.”
People who pre-register for the Christmas Store are able to shop on the first day. The store opens to the wider community the second day, and everything unsold goes on clearance for day three. The money collected goes directly into Isaiah 58 Ministries’ programs.
To avoid items being sold out too quickly, individuals receive a card with various categories on it. “Based on family size, they are allotted a certain number of gifts for each family member from each category,” Booth says. “We have volunteers available to help them shop and determine the best gifts for their family.”
The clearance sale on the final day helps clear out any remaining items, “because these gifts are meant to be given to people in need,” Booth adds. “We know we will always get more gifts next year.”
Several area churches donate items for the annual store, including toys, clothing, household and kitchen items, and health and beauty products. Donations also include Christmas decorations, wrapping paper, bows, and gift bags. This year, Booth estimates that the Christmas Store ministry was able to distribute some $20,000 worth of gifts.
“We are very blessed by the many people who make the holiday store a success, from those who donate gifts for the store to the many volunteers who help set up and work the store,” Booth says. “And it is such a blessing to see the joy these gifts bring to the people who shop. They are so grateful for the ability to provide good quality gifts for their family members, knowing they are not burdening themselves with more bills and expenses.”
She adds, “It is truly worth all of the work and time we spend on the store, seeing the joy it brings to so many.”