GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – It all started with a donation toy drive that left people feeling disconnected.
“We would see some kids get very little and some kids get a lot,” said Donna Sheets, who works at the Christmas Village Toy Store. “The school social workers would take the gifts, and we would never have interaction with the families.”
That’s when the Christmas Village Toy Store came to be in Pitt and Beaufort counties.
“The store is going to benefit people that want to participate in their child’s Christmas by having the opportunity to pick out presents for themselves, but may not have the income or means to pay full price,” said Walter Strathy at Connect Community Center.
Toys are donated by organizations across the east and are used to stock stores in Greenville and Washington.
“The families that are invited come through community partners; churches, civic groups, organizations, the public school system, social workers, the department of social services,” Strathy said.
The selected families provide the Christmas Village Toy Store with a budget, and toys are discounted nearly 90 percent in some cases.
The Christmas Village Toy Store is all about the experience, and the connection starts from the beginning.
“From them coming in the door into our café where we interact with them, we will sit and talk with them,” said Sheets. “We have personal shoppers that are assigned to them.”
Strathy stressed the importance of allowing people to shop for themselves.
“We believe it gives dignity and hope back to them that they participated in financially participating in selecting those presents,” Strathy said.
The money spent at the store goes right back into the community.
“We hire employees with the proceeds from the stores,” said Sheets. “So after all the sales, the proceeds are used to hire people that are unemployed.”
The goal of the store is to not only to help families this Christmas but to address a more severe problem in local communities, one family at a time.
“What we focus on is chronic poverty,” said Strathy. “When you treat chronic poverty with a crisis response it actually further drives poverty and makes it worse. The way we’re approaching it is to solve a chronic, long-term issue.”