For at least the past 12 years, members at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Elkhart County’s Nappanee Clubhouse have had a unique opportunity to get a grown up shopping experience.
Members of the Keystone and Torch Clubs (small-group leadership and service clubs) help plan, organize and run a “Santa’s Workshop” for their peers. Items are donated by people and businesses in the community and the teens price them so young kids can afford them.
“Not only is it a valuable lesson in giving back, but it creates a tradition within our Club that our members look forward to each year,” said Nappanee Area Director Mandy Gerber.
For three afternoons before Christmas, kids are invited into the workshop to shop a variety of items for their siblings, parents or others. The teens help younger members shop and wrap their gifts so they will be a surprise on Christmas day.
“The idea of a kid being able to purchase a gift regardless of the cost gives them an incredible sense of pride,” Gerber said. “When they can pull that item out on Christmas morning, it means everything to them.”
The teens are also getting joy from the process. Kalob Carr, 13, said he’s learning about the value of items and what it takes to run a “retail” operation. He’s also learning to work with others as a team.
“At first we were all running around, but we settled into a routine to get things done,” he said. “I’ve learned that someone needs to be a leader, but that it’s OK to be a follower if it helps accomplish the goal.”
The generosity of the community isn’t lost on the teens.
“I’m grateful for the people who donated things. Now we can turn that around and benefit other people. It really brings more joy to the holiday season,” Carr said.
The shoppers are also finding joy in the workshop.
“My mom loves Christmas so I was looking for specific things,” said Anthony Noyes, 11. “I think she’s going to be surprised!”