A Christmas Store at the Kids Cafe
Christmas Store

A seven year old girl, whose pigtails were tied with jingle bells, said she wanted to find something for her mother before she would even look at the children’s toys at the Kids Cafe Christmas Store. Then she proudly carried the heavy set of a matching bath mat and shower curtain herself, letting a volunteer hold the gifts she’d picked out for herself and her siblings. And a nine-year old boy asked Sister Val Luckey, Emmaus ministry assistant, if he could help wrap the gifts he chose. “I have practiced a lot at home,” he added.

Every year, Emmaus Ministries’ Kids Cafe offers a “Christmas store” to children in the program, giving all the kids—who usually come each day after school to get a warm meal and help with homework—a chance to pick out one gift for themselves, and one for each person they live with. This year, the spirit of generosity and giving was especially strong, enriched by volunteers, donors, and the staff and children themselves.

Dozens of individuals and local businesses provided the gifts for the children, turning one of the rooms at the Kids Cafe into a Santa’s workshop that left many of the kids speechless. Kids Cafe coordinator, Breanna Mekuly, and the staff spent the days leading up to the store sorting and displaying the gifts. “We knew it would be wonderful to see the faces of the kids when they entered, and we were right. Their joy was obvious,” shared Breanna. The perimeter of the room was lined with tables covered in dolls and sports equipment, headphones and speakers, games and books, scented candles and warm hats and gloves.

Each of the children took turns personally looking through the donated gifts, picking out things to brighten the holiday season for themselves and their families. Volunteers escorted them through the room, helping them make decisions, and in many cases carrying the gifts when they became too heavy or unwieldy for little arms to hold.

One of the volunteers, Charlene Serfozo, hand-knitted over thirty miniature stockings for the children to use as decorations. And she and the other volunteers were tasked with wrapping the gifts, making sure that every package that the children took home was beautifully wrapped with ribbons, bows, and gift tags. For most of the kids, choosing a present for their relatives was even more exciting than finding one for themselves.

Some of the children went home with flashy gifts like new roller skates and glittery nail polish that they will enjoy for months to come. And every single one of the kids went home with the joy of being able to give, to share something beautiful with someone they love. That’s a memory that they will enjoy for much longer than this holiday season.

Photo: A child at the Kids Cafe shows off her new make-up set

Learning how to use new skates!
Learning how to use new skates!
Helping wrap gifts with volunteer, Mary Ellen Lieb
Helping wrap gifts with volunteer, Mary Ellen Lieb
Coordinator Breanna Mekuly with donor Terry Seth
Coordinator Breanna Mekuly with donor Terry Seth
Elf and staff member, Lindsey
Elf and staff member, Lindsey
Kitchen Coordinator, Carly, with volunteer, Chandler
Kitchen Coordinator, Carly, with volunteer, Chandler
Sister Val helps with shopping
Sister Val helps with shopping
Volunteer, Charlene Serfozo, wraps gifts
Volunteer, Charlene Serfozo, wraps gifts