Philanthropy Comes Full Circle at Christmas Shop
Gifts From the Heart Allows Parents of any Means to Shop
Much negativity surrounds 2020, but it is special for me because it’s the fifth year for Gifts From the Heart (GFTH) Christmas Shop. The shop is a unique approach to Christmas charity, one that recognizes that even parents of modest means would prefer to purchase holiday gifts for their children, as opposed to accepting handouts.
GFTH seeks to be a dignity-affirming shopping experience for parents and guardians of children associated with at least one of the nine nonprofit partners. We started with three organizations in 2016, and never imagined that our little program would involve nine organizations just a few years later.
Here’s how it works:
Toys are sold at the shop at prices dramatically less than retail, purposely marked down to be affordable. For example, a toy with a retail value of $50 or more is priced at $15.
The shop provides a welcoming and festive experience, where shoppers select from a large array of toys, receive a free book for each child, and have the choice of a complimentary gift wrap from caring volunteers.
Some of our families may be out of work or have greatly diminished work hours due to COVID-19 and other reasons. To better serve them, we have an option for struggling families to earn “shop dollars” in advance of shop opening day by volunteering with one of the partner organizations. For every hour volunteered, they earn a $10 credit to spend at the shop. Many of our families volunteer at Village Thrift, owned by Love INC, one of the partner organizations. Village Thrift hosted the GFTH Christmas Shop for its first four years.
GFTH has the added goal of hiring two assistant managers — ideally persons who are program participants — to handle day-to-day operations; thus, providing a seasonal part-time employment opportunity to persons in need.
Neighbor Up Brevard, Club Esteem, and Love INC first launched GFTH in 2016, and have since been joined by Family Promise of Brevard, Community of Hope, Eckerd Connects, New Life Mission (formerly known as Brevard Rescue Mission), Habitat for Humanity of Brevard, and Children's Home Society-Space Coast.
The shop has been an amazing success with parents purchasing at least three gifts per child for over 425 children in 2019, an increase of 40% over the prior year.
The effects of COVID-19 are likely felt disproportionally among the clients served by our nine partner organizations. It has never been more important to support your community at Christmas.
To meet the demand, we must collect and stock the shelves with over 1,800 toys before opening day on Dec. 5, and we depend on our community to make that happen. To date, over 22 churches and businesses have pledged to help make GFTH Christmas Shop 2020 a reality, but we are eager, and very much need, to add more.
Here are ways you can provide support:
- Don’t care to shop in stores during a pandemic? Donate new toys via the Amazon, Target, and Walmart gift registry links found on the “How to Help” page of giftsfromtheheartshop.org. The registries consist of toys most desired by the children, as determined from parent input.
- Donate cash. Cash donations are used to purchase items that fly off the shelves and need replenishing. Just put “GFTH” in the memo line and mail your check to any one of the partner organizations. Addresses are found on the website.
- Help get out the good word. Promote GFTH to friends, congregations and businesses. “Like” Gifts From the Heart Christmas Shop on Facebook, and share our posts.
- Congregations and businesses may host a “Giving Tree” during part or all of November. You provide the tree, we provide the “ornaments” with information on a requested toy and the age of a child most likely to desire it.
For more information on Gifts From the Heart Christmas Shop, including a report from 2019, visit giftsfromtheheartshop.org or call 321-345-0094.
Gifts From the Heart Christmas Shop partner organizations and their missions
Neighbor Up Brevard: to plan, facilitate, and implement solutions for the revitalization of impoverished communities.
Family Promise of Brevard: to end family homelessness in Brevard by collaborating with the community to provide families the support and resources they need to put themselves on a path toward long-term housing stability.
Club Esteem: to inspire youth from economically disadvantaged communities to embrace the highest standards of academic and personal excellence — instilling in each child a desire to learn, to serve, and to accept challenges.
Love In the Name of Christ: a faith-based nonprofit organization that equips and mobilizes the Church to offer hope and help to people in need.
Community of Hope: to build hope and healthy families through a helping-hand program of structured housing.
Eckerd Connects: to provide and share solutions that promote the well-being of children, young adults and families in need.
New Life Mission: in a Christ-centered environment, we equip homeless moms to transform their families for generations.
Habitat for Humanity: seeking to put God's love into action, HBH brings people together to build homes, communities and hope.
Children’s Home Society - Space Coast: building bridges to success for children.
Rev. Joy Willard-Williford is a retired Episcopal priest currently serving as a project manager/urban missioner for Neighbor Up Brevard, a Christian community development organization in the Booker T. Washington neighborhood of Melbourne. She co-chairs the Gifts From the Heart Christmas Shop committee with Joan Sorensen, a board member of both Neighbor Up Brevard and New Life Mission.
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