This year, Americans expect to spend approximately $885 on Christmas gifts according to a Gallup study from October. While many Americans can agree with this estimate, this is not the case for all.
The Montgomery County Christmas Store organization has been assisting low-income families in the county with their holiday shopping since 1982 with the annual Montgomery County Christmas Store in Christiansburg.
“We want to give low-income families a merry Christmas,” said Terri Lynn Howard, a spokesperson for the store, over text message, “so we set up a department-like store and let shoppers choose new winter clothing, new toys and teen gifts, consumable household goods, and food for a holiday meal. We treat them with dignity and grace as they ‘shop.’”
The store opened on Dec. 4 this year and closed on Dec. 8.
The organization raised over $200,000 for the store according to George Jackson, the president of the organization. Moreover, over 4,000 community members or 1,400 families were served this year according to Howard.
“Our fundraising goal this year was $256,000, and it comes from our community ― individual donors, organizations, etc.,” Howard said. “Almost everything is bought new, but groups have coat, hats, gloves, underwear, toy, food, etc. drives to collect new items for the store.”
The mission of the store is to provide families with a shopping experience characterized by dignity and choice.
Those who are eligible to shop in the Christmas store must live in Montgomery County and have an income below 125 percent of the federal poverty level. Furthermore, they must fill one of the following conditions: individuals or families must have school-age children (high school or lower), be or have a senior over 62 years old or have disabled members in the household.
Additionally, families who experience emergency situations are eligible to shop.
Around 200 volunteers a day helped with the store according to Howard. Some groups that volunteered included sports clubs, fraternities and sororities from Radford University and Virginia Tech. Even the Marching Virginians helped out by collecting cans during a football game to stock the shelves according to WSLS.
Howard said anyone in the community can volunteer while the store is open as long as they are adults out of high school, for privacy reasons. However, anyone can volunteer throughout the rest of the year.
“The rest of the year when the store is closed, much work goes on,” Howard said. “Cleaning, painting, sorting, stocking shelves and on and (on). All ages are welcome then.”