By Everett Brazil, III
The Newkirk Herald Journal
NEWKIRK — The Children’s Christmas Shop has long been a part of Newkirk Main Street’s many activities for the community, helping children buy Christmas gifts during the holiday season and away from their parents’ eyes. The 2020 event has been yet another positive installment, despite being held during a pandemic.
Children’s Christmas Shop was held Dec. 12, and even with a lower turnout than previous years, it is viewed as a success, according to organizers.
“Overall, I think it went well,” said Newkirk Main Street Director Alyssa McCleery. “The social distancing, the hand sanitizer and masks all went well.”
The program is an annual event for Newkirk Main Street, which allows local children to shop for Christmas gifts for family members, especially their parents, where they can choose their own gifts for family, without the influence of fellow family members. Gifts are provided by area businesses, which included Newkirk Main Street, Finders Keepers, Carolyn Kahle’s Then and Now Antiques, Stagecoach Restaurant, Grit & Grace Outdoors, Locke Auto Supply and RLC Farms.
The event has historically been held at the Newkirk Main Street facility, 116 N. Main, but organizers were forced to find a new location for 2020, due to COVID-19. The new location was in the gym at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, which allowed for easier social distancing, spacing tables with wider aisles between them. Organizers took advantage of the larger space for the safety of all participants.
“We made sure the tables were separated, and there was plenty of space between the tables to avoid bottlenecks, which would go against social distancing,” McCleery said.
Parents started checking their children in at 10 a.m., and volunteers, or “elves,” would help the children buy the presents, while also keeping the cost within the child’s budget.
“The volunteers did a great job at helping keep the shoppers’ distance,” McCleery said.
Once shopping is finished, the kids have their presents wrapped and ready to be placed under the Christmas tree. Members of the Newkirk Go-Getters 4-H Club volunteered for the wrapping in 2019, but for 2020, those were members of BSA Scout troop 501 in Ponca City, which includes Newkirk members.
Children’s Christmas Shop has a special children’s coloring area, maintained by more elves, for them to wait for their parents or guardians to return.
The crowds trickled in until about 3 p.m. when volunteers headed home for the day, returning from noon – 2 p.m. Sunday for adult shopping, although presents were not wrapped for parents.
There are many life lessons the kids learn through Children’s Christmas Shop, including the freedom to pick their own presents, as well as shopping on a budget.
“They learn selflessness, they learn to think about someone other than themselves,” McCleery said. “They learn the joy of giving instead of receiving, and activities such as these help them develop a feeling of self confidence and accomplishment.”
The turnout for 2020 was lower than usual, both for shoppers as well as volunteers, partly due to COVID-19 and cold, cloudy weather, but that may have been a benefit in its own right as it was easier to social distance.
“By limiting the numbers, we were able to limit the number of shoppers to about 90,” McCleery said.
With the continued popularity and success of the program, organizers are now looking forward to the next program for 2021, and are seeking volunteers to help it continue to be a success yet again in the next holiday season.
“We’re looking at making improvements for the 2021 Christmas Shop, and donations of gift tags and bows would be greatly appreciated,” McCleery said.
For more information about Newkirk Main Street activities and volunteer opportunities, call (580) 362-2377, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, visitwww.newkirkmainstreet.comor visit the office at 116 N. Main. Office hours are noon-5 p.m. Monday – Thursday.