The holiday spirit tends to grip many of us this time of year, and it will soon get ahold of the families — specifically the parents — at Clarence Farrington School 61.
But this isn’t a new phenomenon. For the past several years, Connection Pointe Christian Church in Brownsburg has partnered with the IPS school on the city’s westside to turn the gymnasium into something similar to Santa’s workshop — after all of the toys have been made.
The Holiday Project Christmas Shoppe is a place where select families can choose free gifts for their children, helping to keep the magic and wonder of the holiday alive for their kids.
This year, the shop opens Saturday, Dec. 14, and will serve more than 30 preselected families identified by the school as low-income, homeless or those facing other challenges and hardships. School social workers assemble a list of families they think would be a good fit, and volunteers from Connection Pointe contact the families to ask them to participate.
When the doors of the shop open, families will tour the school gymnasium and select items ranging from winter coats and clothing to boots and gloves, as well as toys that can be used as Christmas gifts. All toys are brand new and still packaged.
“It’s more like shopping at a department store rather than just going and picking up a box of something,” said Jona Atkins, principal at Clarence Farrington.
After selecting their items, families have a wrapping party afterward to wrap their gifts, which adds an element of fun to the day. It also helps to keep what they’ve selected for their children a secret.
“This gives these families an opportunity to feel like they’ve had that store experience where they can go in and pick whatever their child may like. That is an experience that many of our families don’t really have,” said Atkins.
Connection Pointe leads collection efforts through donations from the church. Beginning in October, the church hangs tickets with the names of items they’d like to have donated, and church members take the tickets and purchase the gifts.
Those gifts are then brought to the school, and the church’s volunteers, along with teachers at the school, spend time organizing and setting up the shop inside the gym.
“The school just becomes like a big mall,” said Adkins. “It’s really a lot of fun.”
A total of 150 families will receive assistance through the holiday project. In addition to Clarence Farrington, families throughout the Brownsburg School Corporation are also served.
The partnership with Connection Pointe doesn’t end with this holiday event. Church mentors volunteer at Clarence Farrington throughout the year, offering tutoring services and a variety of other support to classrooms. Atkins said the church is always there when they are needed.
“When we have staff needs, Connection Pointe is there,” she said. “Above all, they support our families, our students, and our staff.”
The Holiday Project Christmas Shoppe gives the school the chance to give back to members of the community who need help the most.
“We love this event,” said Atkins. “It gives families the opportunity to get that Christmas experience without having to worry about if they buy this toy they may not be able to pay the electric bill. I think that’s a wonderful feeling for a lot of our families.”