On Saturday, the local non-profit inCOMMON held its 4th annual Neighborhood Toy Store. The store helped families have a merry Christmas by allowing parents to purchase toys and games at 70-75% off retail prices.
“We don’t give our gifts away for free because we believe in empowerment, so we’re empowering families to provide Christmas for their children in a way that they can afford it and still feel really good about it,” said event organizer Rachel Bahl.
For weeks, local businesses, churches, and community members held toy drives and raised money to purchase toys for the event. Families in the neighborhood pre-registered to come and shop on Saturday for dolls, board games, winter clothes, and other toys for their children. Parents could purchase three toys per child.
Davannis Donaldson, a single mother working and going to school, said without inCOMMON’s toy store, Christmas would be that much harder.
“We go into like Wal-Mart and different places and seeing the toys, the prices are just extremely expensive. I cannot afford it… I can picture them now being excited with abundance of love and happy on Christmas Day,” said Donaldson.
The store was set up like any other. Shoppers picked out their gifts and handed them to a cashier. Volunteers were on hand to help carry gifts and wrap presents.
InCOMMON even offered free child care while parents shopped.
"The kids are downstairs working on crafts and different color pages, and then they can give to their parents for gifts,” said Bahl.
Many of inCOMMON’s neighbors are Latino and are spending their first Christmas in America.
“We try to welcome them to our toy store. We want to give them a smile and tell them, ‘Hey, it doesn’t matter if you don’t speak the language or this is your first Christmas, we have gift for you,” said Arturo Mejia, program coordinator for inCOMMON and translator at the event.
The real focus, however, wasn’t on the gifts.
“The toy store is a relationship builder, so whether that’s starting a relationship with a family or deepening a relationship with a family, it allow us to get to know them, to get to know their kids,” said Bahl.