Dec. 25, 2013 — Harris said young children are not allowed inside the old school while parents are picking out things like toys, shoes and clothes, explaining organizers like the idea of helping parents bring a little bit of surprise and Santa Claus into their homes at Christmas. With a system in place to provide Christmas packages according to the number of children in each family, Harris said there is little reason for people to show up early.
“The toys and shoes are a different matter because they do get their pick. So, if there is only one bicycle in the toy store, it goes to whoever gets there first,” she said.
The toy store, which fills the old school gymnasium, is packed with everything from a big batch of Barbie dolls, and a few Kens, to electronic drums, Transformers, Thomas the Train, remote control cars and trucks, educational toys, backpacks, sports playsets to improve kicking and throwing skills, at least one electronic keyboard/synthesizer and an “Executive Foosball” table.
“And, this year we have Beanie Babies by the hundreds,” said Gloria Bunting, of the founding members of the board which sustained the effort to buy the old school and convert it into a community center. Surveying this year’s toys, Bunting found herself entertained by the swatch of synthetic hair atop one particular Ken doll, holding the figure up for her fellow volunteers to see.
Harris said the “Christmas Store” distribution has been going on for at least 16 years, explaining the community center was essentially born when the community’s elementary school was consolidated with nearby schools in Olive Hill.
“Until that time, we could use the school for our needs. When they took it away, there was no place to serve as the hub of the community or to have a benefit if we needed to help someone,” she said, explaining the building was later sold at public auction, and later bought back by the community “with every window broken out, holes in the roof and water standing on the gym floor.” Supporters began writing grant applications and seeking donations, she said.