UPDATED: Now that's a sale!
Community makes gift giving affordable
December 12, 2019 | View PDF
Editor's note: Due to a production error, the story on Shafter Christmas Store than ran in last week's paper was a repeat of last year's report. The correct story follows, along with the appropriately captioned pictures.
For a lot of people, Christmas time is full of excitement, but for some the time is very stressful and is full of doubt, wondering if they will be able to give their children a nice Christmas this year.
On Saturday Dec. 7, the Shafter Veterans Hall was turned into a store that gave Shafter families a chance to give their kids that nice Christmas. The community of Shafter came together with over 130 volunteers to conduct the city's third annual Shafter Christmas Store - an event that gives low-income families the opportunity to purchase Christmas gifts for their children at a fraction of the department store cost.
Katie Wiebe, one of the organizers of the event, said, "A lot of giving events around Christmas time have the volunteers of the event as the provider of the gifts, but we think that having the parents feel the joy of providing for their children makes the event a special one."
Three years ago, Brittney Neal-Soberanis, Katie Wiebe and Melissa Bergen talked about creating an event modeled after an event that was started in Atlanta, which allows parents to buy gifts for their children at a discounted price.
Toys and gifts are collected from the community and are then priced at 90% off of the retail price of the items. A store is then set up, where parents can shop and buy items for their children.
Shafter Healthy Start recommended families that would be a good fit for the program and those families were invited to shop for their holiday gifts. There were 52 families that were selected, with 160 children receiving gifts.
Neal-Soberanis said that there were 135 volunteers from throughout the community that gave of their time to help with the event. Some worked pricing items or setting up the wrapping station, while others helped run the cash registers and helped the families while they were shopping. In addition to the many individuals who volunteered, three companies -- Target, California Resources Corp. and Walmart -- sent a team of volunteers to help out.
There were a few high-ticket items to the event this year, with a couple of bikes and two Chromebooks available. Those families interested in those items had their names put into a drawing, and the names were picked. They had the opportunity to purchase the Chromebooks or bikes for $10.
This unique event, which gives the parents the satisfaction of buying the gifts for their children, has helped many families in this holiday time. Mallory Maynard, who was shopping for her kids, said, "I am so grateful to have been able to be a part of this amazing event. I am a single mom and having this resource available to me helped make my kids' Christmas amazing, and it took a thousand pounds off my shoulders. I feel extremely blessed."
Neal-Soberanis said that one man was there shopping for his three daughters and didn't know what to get them. There were a couple of young girls there as volunteers that were his daughters' ages, so the girls went into the store with him and helped him pick the gifts out -- just one example of the community spirit that this event evokes in the volunteers, as well as the participants.
[CORRECTION: This story replaced a previous report from 2018 that was posted in error. Captions were also updated with accurate ones describing scenes from this year's event.}