Thursday, December 19, 2013
Few traditions in North Augusta are as impactful as The Christmas Store.
The nonprofit, which was housed at First Baptist Church's Family Life Center, sponsored 459 children from 215 families this year, according to Lori Mathews, a committee member. Those who volunteer their time go out into the community and find sponsors for each child, and it is the sponsor's duty to try and make as much as possible of the child's Christmas list a reality.
“We took applications the first two weeks of October, and we checked their proof of income to make sure they qualified to receive gifts,” Mathews said.
The sense of pride that goes with helping the families is “amazing” for Mathews.
“It just gives you a good feeling to know that a kid is going to get something they may have never been able to get, or would ever be able to get without us coming together as a community,” she said. “A lot of our clients are working, single moms who just cannot make ends meet to provide for Christmas. I'm sure that has to be a terrible feeling for them to not be able to provide that extra something special. Christmas isn't a requirement, but a child expects it. That's the joy I get out of it – knowing that they are going to wake up to something on Christmas morning.”
The store also worked with Golden Harvest Food Bank to distribute food to 600 families, according to Louvenia Mathews, director of the store.
“The Christmas Store and Jesus Reign, a nonprofit organization from Augusta, pooled together monies to pay for the product,” she said.
Lori stated that though the nonprofit may not always be able to provide the high-priced items that some children wish for, they always try to provide one outfit and some educational toy.
“That's what kids do, sometimes they wish for things that they can't get,” she said. “So we try to give them the basics at least. Just so they can have something.”
The second floor of the center was full of gifts, and Lori was quick to point out none of it would be possible without the backbone of the organization: the sponsors of the children.
“Our sponsors are the people who make it work, they are great,” she said. “We have some groups who come back every year; Old Macedonia Baptist Church sponsors 125 kids every year and have been doing so for the last seven or eight years. Grace United Methodist Church, their Sunday school classes come in strong. First Baptist Church is another one. North Augusta High School is amazing – they take about 45 to 50 kids every year. The kids they get want for nothing because those kids have generous hearts and they give. Coach (Craig) Gilstrap over there is in charge and does an amazing job organizing and getting it done.”
Louvenia also pointed out that North Augusta Middle School was a “big help” for making the event successful. She also said that First Baptist Church was vital for providing the store and its volunteers a base of operations and the space.
“It makes my heart feel good to know that we are able to provide a necessity that people may not otherwise have,” she said. “That's my Christmas; it just pulls everything together. To see the smile on people's faces when you offer them food and something that they may not have at that time, believe it or not.”
Louvenia also said that NewFire Media, from Hammond's Ferry, was instrumental as a sponsor and in spearheading the store's social media presence.
Scott Rodgers is the news editor at the North Augusta Star. He graduated from Alvernia University in 2010 and is currently a graduate student at Drexel University. Follow him on Twitter @NAStarRodgers.