Newday Adventist Church serviced record numbers of Denver area families at their annual Christmas Store at AdventHealth Parker Hospital, December 2-5. Last year had been the biggest year, servicing 150 families, until this year where 200 families, or more than 1,000 people, were blessed by the Christmas story and this partnership.
The Christmas Store idea began almost 15 years ago when the congregation at Newday asked themselves if the community would even notice if they were not around. They wanted to be the light and make a difference to those in need around them. So, the Christmas Store opened in 2010.
Lisa Cardinal, lead pastor at Newday, commented, “This is our 13th year in the Christmas Store. We are partnering with 13 public schools in our community who are the best people situated to know the needs [of the families] they choose [to participate]. The families come here by invitation.”
Every child that comes to the Christmas Store can choose a gift for their parents, grandparents, and sibling(s). Planning and shopping for the program occurs all year long to be able to provide quality gifts to the children who shop. Two storage units are used to hold the gifts until the store is open.
Shawna Sajdak, a lead in the program since it began, stated, “We want to provide memories and moments and excitement for being able to give gifts to family members that wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to do so.”
The program relies on many volunteers who serve such roles as greeters to get the children to the store to personal shoppers that assist the children in picking out gifts to gift wrappers and people to get the children back safely to their families with gifts in hand.
The Rocky Mountain Conference (RMC) staff had the privilege to serve one the store’s nights, December 4, with other volunteers from Newday Church, AdventHealth Parker staff, and others.
Tamara Mallory, RMC accountant, reminisced, “Trying to make the experience for the children fun and meaningful made it fun and memorable for me. When you try and bless someone else, you receive blessings as well.”
“The children really touched your heart. Many siblings were in the store together and you could feel the care and awareness they had for each other. The joy and energy in the store were contagious,” commented Liz Kirkland, RMC communication assistant.
When asked what their favorite part of the Christmas Store was, seven-year-old participant Jayce enthusiastically commented, “I love getting my family presents.” Melanie, an eight-year-old participant, said, “I love seeing all of the toys.”
One of the volunteers on that night, Baily, had participated in the program when she was a child and was grateful to be able to serve now that she was older. She remarked, “I hope that the Christmas Store is going for many more years. It was such a great experience, and we got so excited to go every year.”
Pastor Cardinal had some closing thoughts on the program: “One of the things that we hear back from the schools is that the kids, long after their toys have disintegrated or disappeared, what they remember is the way they were treated in the Christmas Store. They remember that people were so nice to them, and that people smiled at them. And it’s really the way they were treated that are the memories they carry.”