Loyal Christmas Store gets even bigger at its new location
For the ninth year in a row, the annual Christmas Store has brought cheer to young children in the Loyal area, giving them an opportunity to give gifts to those they love most on Christmas morning. Though there were some pretty significant changes for the Christmas Store this year, the volunteers for the Store were still able to make things come together for one of their best years yet.
Elizabeth Nikolai is one of the leaders of the volunteers who ran the Christmas Store from Dec. 4-7. While the Store had been held at the Loyal School District ever since its inception back in 2011, she said this year the Store was moved to the basement of St. Anthony’s Church after the school decided to shift its focus to the Christmas Drive.
“We had it up at the high school on the stage, we were kind of forced to move it,” she said. “Mrs. Kingsbury (the principal at St. Anthony School) asked if we could have it down here.”
Even though Nikolai said she was disappointed about the turn of events, she said there has been a lot of good that has come with the move. For one thing, she said, the event itself has grown even larger, now supporting a bigger inventory of donated items, a larger raffle section and bake sale items — a new addition.
“It’s now bigger and better than before,” she said. “We went from the high school stage to half the cafeteria down here. We were able to bring in more raffles and a bake sale, that’s new.” Since the Store has been able to grow, Nikolai said the amount of kids they can allow to go through the Store has been able to increase as well. In the past, she said only students from the elementary grades at the Loyal School District and St. Anthony’s Catholic School were able to participate. With the expansion, they also brought in kids from the Little Angels Daycare Program, CCD students, members of the Loyal Uplifting Movement Dance Studio and students from the Loyal high school and middle school. “This year the Loyal elementary, St. Anthony schools, Little Angels Program, CCD and the Loyal Dance group were invited to participate,” she said. “The high school and middle school can also shop late in the week, we want the young kids to get a chance to shop first. We want to keep it with the young ones, everything is lower so they can afford it.”
What makes the Christmas Store so special, even after nearly a decade of operation, Nikolai said, has been the fact that everything is donated — from the variety of items the children can look through to the volunteer time by members of Tractors for Autism & Disabilities who help with the project. “Everything is donated and all the funds go back to the Food Pantry and Tractors for Autism and Disabilities,” said Nikolai. “Tractors for Autism & Disabilities helps out with the operations of the Christmas Store, providing volunteers. We have lots of great volunteers, we couldn’t do this without our volunteers.”
They also couldn’t do it without those individuals who donate items every year, Nikolai said. Before the Christmas Store opened, she said people dropped off donations at several locations around Loyal, donating the most items yet for a Christmas Store.
“It certainly has been great. There were five drop off sites, all the three churches in town, the House of Mercy and city hall,” she said. “We did very well. The boxes at St. Anthony’s and the House of Mercy had the most donations. People really want the kids to be able to do this.”
Those people who want the kids to be able to participate in the Christmas Store don’t just stop at volunteering and donating items, Nikolai said. For the elementary students at the Loyal School District, she said SOLES and an anonymous donor each donated $1 for each child, giving them an additional $2 to spend on items; while students at St. Anthony Catholic Schools also got $2 extra to spend thanks to two other anonymous donors. Even though items are priced low for the kids — ranging from 25 cents to $2 — she said the donated funds often make the difference between a child giving a gift to Mom and Dad or giving them nothing.
“We have very poor kids here, this is a big deal for them. They may come in with the donated $2 and that’s all they’re given,” she said. “With these kids getting the $2, their faces just light up.”
Every year, Nikolai said about $1,200 is raised from the Christmas Store which is donated to the Loyal Food Pantry and Tractors for Autism & Disabilities. It’s an event that has a positive effect on both the community and the children and she hopes that it will be able to continue for years to come.
“People give to the kids and back to the community, 100 percent of the profit goes back to the community,” she said. “We’re going to continue this as long as we can. It’s very important, these donations are all some kids get to shop with.”
Loyal Elementary School students place their donations into boxes as high school “elves” move from classrrom to classroom during the Dec. 2-6 collection drive for the Loyal Food Pantry and Clark County Humane Society. Elementary Principal Nancy Popp played Mrs. Santa Claus after the students reached their first goal of 350 items.
CHEYENNE THOMAS/STAFF PHOTO
A child shops at the Christmas Store recently at its new location in the basement of St. Anthony Catholic Church in Loyal. Students are each given a few dollars to spend on hundreds of gift items donated by community members.