Volunteers bring Christmas cheer to kids

Posted 12/13/12

The hum of conversation and occasional laughter replaced the normal Saturday stillness at Bishop Elementary School on Dec. 8 as parents came to get …

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Volunteers bring Christmas cheer to kids


The hum of conversation and occasional laughter replaced the normal Saturday stillness at Bishop Elementary School on Dec. 8 as parents came to get presents for their children from the Christmas Store.

This is the second year Journey Church has sponsored and staffed the Christmas Store to try to help about 140 families provide nice presents for their children.

The program is simple. Parents sign up and the church provides a choice of gifts ranging from coats and boots to dolls and electronic games. Although the retail cost of each gift ranges from $20 to $50, parents select two gifts for each child for a fee of $5 per gift.

“This project is awesome and it is a huge help for our family. It is amazing these people would do this for people they don't even know,” Nicole Breese said. “We live in Englewood, we have five children, three of them going to school here at Bishop. I work full time and go to school full time. My husband did work full time but is unemployed right now recovering from knee surgery. This store will make a much nicer Christmas for our children and for us.”

Cory Bragg, mission pastor, said the relationship between Journey Church, located in Centennial, and Bishop Elementary School started when the lead pastor was riding a bus on a cold day and asked a Bishop student why he wasn't wearing a jacket. The boy said the family only had one coat and today was his brother's turn to wear it.

“We put together a coat drive for Bishop,” he said. “After we visited Bishop, we wanted to do more to help those families. Members of our congregation had helped out with a Christmas Store downtown and we agreed we should do a store for the Bishop families last year. It was a big success as we served about 90 families. So we are doing it again this year and we are pleased that about 140 families have signed up.”

This year, project planning began in September, as organizers raised about $20,000 to buy the estimated 600 gifts needed for the project.

The Christmas Store was set up at Bishop on Dec. 8. Volunteers from the church greeted families as they arrived at the school. There were volunteers to help them sign in and volunteers to help the parents shop for gifts.

Volunteer Ronda Vernaza said she was glad to be part of the project as she waited to help a family shop.

“I grew up in a poor family and understand the circumstances facing some of these parents,” the Highland Ranch resident said. “I think this is an awesome program helping parents get nice gifts for their children for a very low cost. My reward is seeing the smiles on the faces of the parents as they find that special gift for one of their children. It makes me want to be at that home on Christmas to see the faces of the children as they open the packages.”

The organizers also made sure there were volunteers who spoke Spanish to help parents who might struggle with English.

Chruch volunteers staffed the care and activities provided for children so the parents could do the shopping alone.

The Bishop gymnasium became the Christmas Store. Tables loaded with gifts lined the walls offering a wide variety of items. For example, one table had dolls of various sizes and designs and another table was covered with a wide selection of coats. There was a table with a variety of sports equipment, and a table where the choices ranged from a Razor scooter to a pair of snow boots.

Once the shopping was completed, the parents were directed to the hospitality room while the gifts were taken to another room to be wrapped. In the hospitality room, parents had their choice of a wide selection of snacks as well as coffee, tea and juice.

In one of the gift-wrapping rooms, volunteers included Highlands Ranch resident Valerie Thiele and her daughter Brett.

“We just wanted to help these families,” Valerie said as she wrapped a present.

Her daughter, a ThunderRidge High School student, agreed.

“I volunteered today because I think this store is a great way to help needy families,” she said. “I think volunteering here today makes Christmas mean more to me because I helped make it a nicer Christmas for these children.”

englewood, colorado, bishop elementary school, journey church, centennial, colorado


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