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How Family Promise helps locals “shop with dignity” this Christmas season
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Volunteers at Family Promise of Hall County wrap children's presents and aid visitors to their Christmas Promise store Friday, Dec. 11, 2020. A Personal Shopper guides shoppers through the store and assists them as they select their own gifts for their children. - photo by Scott Rogers

Toys sat piled upon tables at Family Promise of Hall County in Oakwood, as three parents at a time entered the space to choose gifts for their children. 

Through its three-day pop-up shop, Lindsey McCamy, the nonprofit’s director, said families are able to “shop with dignity” and purchase three items for $5 per kid.

The shop had 300 parents registered to buy gifts in-person on either Thursday, Dec. 10; Friday, Dec. 11; or Saturday, Dec. 12. McCamy said that by the end of Saturday, 900 kids will have presents for Christmas. 

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Volunteers at Family Promise of Hall County wrap children's presents and aid visitors to their Christmas Promise store Friday, Dec. 11, 2020. Family Promise of Hall County partners with local businesses, churches and volunteers to host the store and provide new toys so families may select gifts for their children at drastically reduced prices. - photo by Scott Rogers

Family Promise, which is devoted to helping homeless children and their families, has opened the shop each December for the past three years to assist those in need during the holiday season.

On Friday, Karen Brackett, a single mother who lives in Gainesville, waited in line to enter the store — located inside the nonprofit at 3606 McEver Road — and pick out gifts for her 9-year-old daughter. Brackett said she only had enough money to afford three gifts, but was grateful for the opportunity to buy Christmas presents. 

“This is something I look forward to every year, just to get help,” Brackett said. “Disability only pays so much, and by the time I get my bills paid, there’s only a little bit left over to get something for her.”

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Rachel Greenwalt wraps children's presents Friday, Dec. 11, 220, at Family Promise of Hall County for families visiting their Christmas Promise store. Family Promise of Hall County partners with local businesses, churches and volunteers to host the store and provide new toys so families may select gifts for their children at drastically reduced prices. - photo by Scott Rogers

Valerie Butts, longtime volunteer at Family Promise, said this year, she was in charge of handling the shop’s registration. 

When the organization first opened the store three years ago, she said it served 40 families, which grew to 150 the next year. She said this number jumped to 300 in 2020 not only because of the increasing need, but because of the organization’s expanded reach in Hall County among schools and partner agencies. 

“We’re just trying to be in the community and filling a need, especially with COVID,” Butts said. “We know that it has been difficult for families.”

McCamy said all the gifts in the shop were donated by individuals, businesses and other groups in the county. Some of the “hot items” included scooters, earbuds and $25 gift cards for middle schoolers. 

Those visiting the store were helped by “personal shopper volunteers” who guided them through their shopping decisions. After choosing the items, parents then had the option of wrapping the gifts on-site or at home.

“We’ve heard families say, ‘I’ve never been able to pick out a gift for my child,’” McCamy said. “To me, it’s giving families dignity.”

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Volunteers at Family Promise of Hall County wrap children's presents and aid visitors to their Christmas Promise store Friday, Dec. 11, 2020. Family Promise of Hall County partners with local businesses, churches and volunteers to host the store and provide new toys so families may select gifts for their children at drastically reduced prices. - photo by Scott Rogers
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