The annual Christmas Store was held December 10, 2016. Both Outreach Community Center in Carol Stream and Puente del Pueblo hold annual Christmas Stores, open to the families living in the neighborhoods served by each resource center. The Christmas Store allows qualifying families to purchase gifts for their children at a savings of 75% off retail price. This is a win-win! Purchasing affordable presents honors parents and grandparents, while proceeds from the Store are designated to the site’s case management services, helping local families throughout the year who need financial assistance.

Outreach Community Center in Carol Stream

SHOPPERS

This year, 366 families shopped for 995 local children. Families without monies to shop at the time of the Store meet with an OCC Case Manager to determine if a voucher is warranted.

COMMUNITY SUPPORT

The Christmas Store is made possible by the generous support of our community partners, the dedication of our volunteers, gift drives by area organizations and financial support of sponsors and individuals.

Volunteers

422 volunteers selflessly gave 1,710 total hours in 2016. Volunteer work begins months before the Store. Roles include check-in, translators, drivers, child care, helping shoppers, wrapping gifts, stockers and more.

Gift Drives & Sponsorships

23 area companies, churches and organizations held gift drives in support of the 2016 Christmas Store, bringing in 4,080 gifts and 763 stocking stuffers, as well as pajamas, coats, hats, gloves and personal care kits. $7,096 in sponsorships and donations was raised in 2016. Supporters included the Chick-Fil-A, Flood Bros Disposal, Matrix Chex System, Carol Stream Professional Firefighter Association Local 3192. All financial contributions underwrite Store expenses, freeing up dollars earned by store sales to go directly to OCC’s Client Assistance Fund, helping local families who are experiencing a financial crisis throughout the year.

STORIES FROM THE STORE

“For me, personally, it was very uplifting. It’s exciting to see how the Christmas Store empowers shoppers and instills hope in the families who are served. It was an organized experience and the fact it’s been happening for 22 years means that it works!

The first family I helped had one child and five grandchildren they were shopping for. They were so incredibly thoughtful about each gift, down to the pajamas they picked out. The tenderness between the two of them and their careful consideration of each gift really touched me. They were tearing up as they found the perfect present for each child.

There was one shopper I helped who seemed a little defensive at first. My first inclination was to be frustrated, but I decided to take a different approach, so I just told her we were going to have a good time together. And we did! We warmed up to each other, and by the end, I went with her to the hospitality room and personally carried her gifts out to the car so I could meet her son. This was her first time at the Christmas Store and by the end of our time together, we were laughing together. That memory will stick with me.

As I talked with parents and grandparents, it struck me that every single one wished me a merry Christmas or said ‘God bless you.’ The shoppers were encouraging me as much as I encouraged them!”

— Pearl, Shopper Helper

“One shopper – a father – stopped me as he left the gym and said, ‘You have no idea what this means. This has been a rough year for my family and this is a blessing. I fully intend to pay this forward and hope to volunteer at the Store in the future.'”

— Sarah, Christmas Store Committee Chair

Shoppers are surveyed about their experience as they wait for their wrapped gifts to be delivered. We asked what their favorite thing about the Christmas Store is, and here’s a sampling of the shoppers’ responses:

  • “Everything was so affordable.”
  • “The music, toys and beautiful people.”
  • “The very kind volunteers.”
  • “The opportunity to receive this blessing.”
  • “I was able to get gifts my granddaughter would enjoy.”
  • “Everything, God bless you all!”

366 families served

995 children served

$11,798 total store sales

422 volunteers = 1,710 hours

Puente del Pueblo

SHOPPERS

This year, 193 families came to shop, serving 536 children.

COMMUNITY SUPPORT

The Christmas Store is made possible by the generous support of our community partners, the dedication of our volunteers, gift drives by area organizations and financial support of sponsors and individuals.

Volunteers

276 volunteers selflessly gave 1,599 total hours in 2016. Volunteer work begins months before the Store. Roles include check-in, translators, drivers, child care, helping shoppers, wrapping gifts, stockers and more.

Gift Drives & Sponsorships

Ten area companies, a foundation, three school districts and four churches sponsored or held gift drives in support of the 2016 Christmas Store, including Ace Hardware, Burrito Parrila Mexicana, C.H. Hanson, Carnicerias Jimenez Inc., Chick-Fil-A, Meier Clinics, Porcayo & Associates Realty, Republic Bank, State Street Jewelers and The Home Depot.

STORIES FROM THE STORE

Natalia: A New Experience

This year was Natalia’s first year at the store. She first learned about the Christmas Store last year, but was too late to register; she made sure that didn’t happen again. Natalia was excited to find her son a skateboard, and her young daughter a baby doll to hug when she goes to bed.

When Natalia’s family came to the USA from Ukraine last year, her son was afraid to go outside. He wouldn’t play with other children because he couldn’t speak the language and didn’t know anyone. Since then, through Puente’s aft€er-school program he has made friends.

Natalia wants to share her gratitude: “Thank you, thank you so much” she says. “This is nice, very nice. Very good for the children, with toys that children like. This (Christmas Store) is a very big job, and it is so good for us, a very big help for us immigrants and refugees, and our children. May God bless you as He has blessed us through you.”

Verónica: Receiving Year-Round Support

When Puente del Pueblo first moved into Main Park Apartments, Verónica and her daughter Michelle were two of the first community members to get involved. Since then, both Verónica and Michelle have been involved at Puente and shopped at the store each year. They had a warm customer service experience again this year but would like to be able to buy more than one gift for Michelle*.

When asked about their time at Puente, Michelle’s face began to beam. Verónica shared how wonderful the staff is and how helpful the programs have been. Through Puente’s programs, Michelle has received help in math and other school subjects, but the relationships are what stand out to them both. When Verónica was sick and needed to go to the hospital, she called Rosie (PdP staff). “It is a good community, very good,” says Verónica. “There is always someone there to help.”

*It is a goal of Puente’s Christmas Store Committee to raise enough support so that we can allow parents to shop for two gifts per child in all age groups. In 2016, we achieved our goal with the exception of the 12 and up age group, which shopped for one gift per child.

Rocio: Serving as a Family

Rocio enjoys the Christmas Store because it is an event where her entire family can come and serve. She and her husband work in the hospitality room, while her children (ages 17 and 21) work as gift runners.

Rocio’s favorite part of being in the hospitality room is seeing the looks on the shoppers’ faces, sharing in the joy of choosing and purchasing Christmas presents for their children with very li•ttle money.

Rocio was able to talk with Maria, who does not know how to read. Aft€er speaking with Maria about the services offered through Puente, Maria signed up to take literacy classes. Another shopper shared with Rocio that Puente’s a€fter-school programs have helped her daughter tremendously at school.

But the shoppers are not the only ones Rocio sees benefi•tting from the store. Her own children have grown up serving, and developing a heart of service to others. “That is what is most important to me,” Rocio says. “When my little one goes to college next year, maybe she will have this love of service in her heart.

Threadgill Family: First-Time Volunteers

This family of four˜ – ˜˜mom, dad and two young girls – ˜volunteered for the first time together this year in the child care room. It was a special day˜ – Lily’s 11th birthday! Both girls enjoyed the cookies at break time, and a chance to help younger children. They realized that aft€er years of looking up to “big kids,” now there were children looking up to them.

Elizabeth, the mom of the family, also volunteered on the team that contacted local businesses for donations. “Everyone we spoke to was very receptive, and everyone contributed in some way – ˜either with gift€s or with money.” She appreciates that there is a way for her entire family to volunteer together. “I’m grateful to do this as a family, so the kids can see the process in person and be part of the team. It’s wonderful to see the entire community coming together for a good cause.”

193 families served

536 children served

276 volunteers = 1,599 hours