Cleveland is blessed with multiple Christmas assistance programs. I’m most familiar with Angel Tree, through The Salvation Army but Christmas Memories, sponsored by Brenda Lawson, is a favorite of kids and volunteers around town.
Children are identified through our public school system, given an application to fill out, and upon acceptance are awarded a $100.00 shopping spree at our local Kmart.
I volunteered to work as a shopper for this years shopping finale. I was instructed to arrive at 10:30 and other volunteers assigned me to a young lady. With my calculator at hand, I pushed a cart in and out of the throngs of shoppers as my child filled our buggy with various sundries, toys and clothing. It was so much fun, until we had to join the longest check-out line in the history of shopping! Every register was opened and every line stretched to the back of the store. Ugg four hours later we made it to the register. So in the end I stood an hour in line waiting to be paired up, an hour shopping, and four hours waiting to check out with a hungry child I barely knew. Next time I will have snacks in my bag.
A few things I thought should be addressed with this program. First, because our local Kmart is inside our mall and the sheer number of volunteers and children to shop are so many, the station to meet your child shopper is on the opposite side of the mall. I understand this is logistically neccesary for crowd control purposes, but was alarmed at the fact no one ever ask me for an ID of any sort. I got in line, walked up to the station and they automatically gave me a young girl in 5th grade. Together we walked the full length of the mall, past stores and exits. Since Parents aren’t allowed to shop with their children, this truly concerned me. They are trusting their child will be safe. Second, the check out time was exhausting. After the child had been through the check out procedure, they could choose dollar items from rolling shelves and carts in close proximity to finish reaching their $100.00 limit. This made checking out twice as long for each child. My shopper’s total came to 98.00 and then she had to stand in front of the dollar section and choose 2 small items. At first glance it seems shameless of Kmart, as if they are trying to milk the very last penny out of this organization. Of course, I’m not privi to whether or not this is kmart’s doing but if not there still has to be a better way to do the check out. Last, we must remember that although this is a gift to these children the majority of these kids wear their new shoes and clothing to school the next day and begin playing with these toys immediately. Parents are still left with what can they do for their children on Christmas.
I absolutely love that this program is helping students. Countless students from my elementary school met me with excitement, and hugs. For days one of my special education students greeted me by saying, “Do you like my new shoes? They are shiny.” This single gift alone made a huge impact on this student. Overall this gift to our school kids is a huge blessing and really what’s six hours in the grand scheme of things? It’s worth the time and effort if you pack lots of snacks and wear comfortable shoes.