Holiday helpers: Christmas Gift Shop helps local families

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Christmas Gift Shop, located in the heart of Columbiana, isn&8217;t in the business of selling tree ornaments or nutcrackers as their name suggests.

Instead, Joe Bailey and the volunteers with the Shelby Baptist Association are giving presents to needy Shelby County families.

In its 12th year now, Christmas Gift Shop is a ministry of the Shelby Baptist Association&8217;s Church and Community Ministry.

Parents living in Shelby County go through an application process with the association, and if approved are later scheduled to tour the gift shop sometime during the two weeks it is open.

During each individual appointment, &8220;buddies&8221; bring parents inside and take them to the rooms with age appropriate toys for their son or daughter.

The rooms, formerly exam rooms and offices of an old medical clinic, are decorated in different themes and styles.

&8220;I like the creativity of this room,&8221; said Bailey of the middle school boys construction-themed room, which sports saw-horse tables and caution tape.

Bible verses hang on one wall. &8220;Buddies say clients go in there and read them sometimes even before they pick up the gifts,&8221; said Bailey.

&8220;My favorite thing to do is come in here and turn on anything that makes music,&8221; she added later, turning on a dinosaur toy.

The parents pick out three gifts and each child is given three items of clothes, socks, underwear and a stocking filled to the brim.

Each parent also receives a gift and the entire family

takes home a tin of popcorn and cookies.

On Saturdays, clients come back to pick up their presents, which have been wrapped and are ready to place under the tree.

However, the purpose of the shop isn&8217;t just to give families a merry material Christmas.

&8220;This Christmas Gift Shop is not about pretty trees and lights and clothing and toys, it&8217;s intentional evangelism,&8221; explained Bailey. Before the clients leave, their buddies share the true meaning of Christmas over cookies and coffee.

&8220;They know when they come that we&8217;re gonna share the Gospel with them. Last year, we had 25 people who prayed to receive Christ,&8221; said Bailey. Every family that comes through leaves with a new Bible.

Over 350 children are expected to receive gifts from the Christmas Shop this year. Such an endeavor takes hundreds of volunteers and months of preparation.

&8220;People volunteer to restock the rooms or wrap or work on the stockings,&8221; said Bailey. Sunday school classes and youth groups around the county have bought stockings, sponsored children and collect money either to shop for presents or donate to the ministry. Every year businesses get involved too, by donating toys or money.

&8220;It&8217;s just an awesome place to be. You feel like there is somebody here with you all the way,&8221; said Bailey.

To donate toys or clothes to the Christmas Gift Shop, stop by the Wal-Mart on Highway 280 and pick a child&8217;s name off the Christmas trees set up or call the Shelby Baptist Association at 669-7858.