WATERLOO — The Boys & Girls Club was transformed into a busy shopping center Saturday where invited guests could purchase some of their Christmas gifts at a deep discount.
Christmas in Walnut allows parents to shop at the Christmas Store in the organization’s gym while children are ushered upstairs to make crafts that can be given as gifts to their parents and other family members. Before or after shopping, families were also invited to eat a pancake and sausage breakfast at the neighboring Harvest Vineyard Church.
“So there’s a lot of joy going all around,” said Molly Juza, one of the volunteer staff members.
She explained that people needed a ticket to get into the event. The 575 tickets were primarily handed out to families associated with Dr. Walter Cunningham School for Excellence, Irving Elementary School, and the Boys & Girls Club — which is located in the Walnut Neighborhood at the north end of downtown. People lined up outside of the gym where rows of tables were covered with gifts for children ages 3 to 18 — such as dolls, remote control cars, drones, sports items and much more.
“We collect about 2,300 new unwrapped gifts. We discount the price down to $2 or $5 and people can come in and shop,” said Juza, noting each participant was accompanied by a personal shopper and had 10 minutes to pick out items. Everyone could buy up to four presents this year.
Partners for the event included Orchard Hill Church in Cedar Falls, Harvest Vineyard and First Presbyterian churches in Waterloo, Link Christian Community Development, and a number of businesses. Among those were UnityPoint-Allen Hospital, RSM, VGM and Western Home Communities.
“This is the ninth year,” said Juza. “It’s getting to the point where it’s a well-oiled machine.”
Jessica Barr of Waterloo was shopping for her children, ages 2, 3 and 5.
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“It was really great, a nice variety for all ages,” she said, while her items were being wrapped at the complimentary wrapping station. “It was a pretty nice experience.”
Among the presents first-time shopper Senija Bjnic of Waterloo got for her two grandchildren were dolls and a tea set, some of the things they had asked for.
“Those things are on their list,” she said, praising the event. “I love it. It’s more than good.”
Jaylen Pollard, 9, was upstairs with his 8-year-old brother, Josiah, where they got pictures taken with homemade props in the Christmas Craft Workshop. The Waterloo boys then made picture holders, painting a stone and wrapping a wire around it decorated with beads. At the end, the wire was bent to hold the picture.
While creating his own gifts, Jaylen admitted that was thinking about what was being picked out for him downstairs. He is hoping for a set of Hotwheels cars for Christmas.
There were about 10 craft stations upstairs. Children could make burlap angels, candy cane reindeer, stained glass nativity scenes, colorful washer necklaces and more.
Samantha Hampton, her two sisters and brother were making painted tea towels. The Waterloo 10-year-old was painting her hand and a metal snowman stamp to decorate the towel.
“I have one that’s going to my sister and I’m going to give one to my mom,” said Samantha.
Nearby, 6-year-old sister Sandra had a similar idea.
“It’s for my mom,” she said of her decorated towel. “It’s so fun because we can make stuff.”