Cleveland County Christmas Store Helps Low-Income Families
NORMAN, Oklahoma - One of the joys of this time of year is finding the perfect gift for a loved one.
For more than 40 years, the Cleveland County Christmas Store has helped low-income families take part in the holiday shopping tradition.
What sets the store apart from all of the stores in the metro is that no money is involved.
"Oh my gosh, " Tina Gardner said, nearly speechless as she wheeled her shopping cart into a room of toys.
The shelves were stocked with all the gidgets and gadgets, and she had the opportunity to choose any three items for her little girl.
"We will go with the princess tub for the big toy," she said excitedly.
But the real gift of the shopping spree was not what ends up in her shopping cart, but the joy in her heart.
The mother of two lost her job last year and has not been able to find a new one since then.
"This year has been really rough," Gardner cried with relief. "I have custody of my son so it means everything to me to be able to come to the community and ask for support."
To her delight, she discovered the Cleveland County Christmas Store, a place where low-income families can help themselves to a better Christmas.
The store does not offer handouts, instead Gardner and 470 other participants earned their opportunity to peruse the aisles for toys, household items and food.
"You work for it and you do things that are deserving of what you receive," Candice Martin said. She returned in the fall for her fourth year to volunteer at the store.
She bagged groceries and other items that would be passed out to her and other families in need.
In exchange, she received a ticket to shop for free.
"It means so much to my family," said Martin.
Gardner was equally grateful. She offered hugs to every person assisting her in the shopping experience.
"My family appreciates you. Merry Christmas," she said.
The store operates completely on donations, turning the peace of Christmas into peace of mind.
"It was really comforting knowing I'm ready for Christmas now and my kids are going to be pleased.," said Gardner.
The Cleveland County Christmas Store is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. om Monday and Tuesday at 641 E. Robinson Street in Norman.
It will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesday, 10 a.m. to noon on Thursday and at 10 a.m. on Saturday.
The shopping is only available to those who pre-registered and completed two volunteer hours.