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This new store helps needy families shop for Christmas gifts
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Lynette Croy, right, and Anne Ayers go through a box of donated toys at Family Promise of Hall County Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018, shortly after the items were dropped off at their Riverside Drive offices. - photo by Scott Rogers

Family Promise of Hall County, an organization that helps homeless families, has found another way to help those in need. 

Instead of simply offering aid free of charge, it’s giving families that are part of its program, and those referred by other agencies, the chance to purchase gifts at a reduced price this Christmas season. It’s a way to help provide materially while also providing emotionally.

“We kind of had been thinking for the last couple of years, we wanted to approach Christmas through Family Promise in a different way, where we could empower our families to provide Christmas themselves for their families,” said Anne Ayers, family advocate assistant with Family Promise.

The Christmas Promise Store, open 1 to 6 p.m. Dec. 9 and 4 to 8 p.m. Dec. 10 and 11 at St. Paul United Methodist Church on Washington Street in Gainesville, is also receiving help from WomenSource and United Way of Hall County. Donations for the store will be taken at the Family Promise Day Center, United Way and other locations around Hall County through Dec. 5. Family Promise is asking for no clothes, coats, hats or shoes.

“This is the first year we’re doing it, but we’re hoping it will become a tradition in our community where we can help many, many families,” Ayers said.

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Heather Smith, left, leaves a box of toys with Family Promise of Hall County program coordinator Lynette Croy Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018. Family Promise is hosting a 'Christmas Promise Store' for its first time. They are taking toy donations to sell at a discounted price to Family Promise families. - photo by Scott Rogers

The store will be set up at the church with tables and separated into different sections — electronics here, bicycles there. Ayers said she hopes they’re able to move it into a real storefront someday so it gives off the true feeling of shopping for Christmas.

After signing up for a specific time slot, each family will be assigned a personal shopper to help grab things from the tables and decide on different items. Families will be limited to three items per child.

“We’re hoping to have a stocking area where we’ll either have pre-stuffed stockings or stockings that families can fill for their children,” Ayers said.

There will be a gift-wrapping station, too.

All the money that comes in will go into a Christmas Promise Store fund to help repay expenses from things like signage, wrapping paper and tables needed for the store and any future needs it might have.

“We don’t expect there to be much money made, though,” Ayers said.

It may seem counterintuitive, having families who need a little extra help during the holidays pay for things, but it’s something that has worked for Focused Community Strategies’ Pride for Parents store in Atlanta over the years, and now, Ayers is hoping it works for the Hall community, too.

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Family Promise hosted its first Christmas Promise Store in 2018 at St. Paul United Methodist Church. - photo by Scott Rogers

“We’ve kind of modeled it around their concept where we are taking donations of new toys, and then we will create a store and we actually will price the toys,” Ayers said. “They’ll be priced between $2 and $10 depending on what the item is.”

The store will be filled with all sorts of items. From crayons and coloring books to footballs, guitars, stuffed animals and puzzles. There’s an Amazon and Target wish list to offer an idea of the types of donations Family Promise is looking for.

This type of event is the exact thing of which WomenSource, a local organization serving women in the area, wanted to be a part.

“WomenSource focuses on empowering women,” said Elizabeth Burnette, executive director of WomenSource. “It’s our mission to empower women through programming, and we realize that families that engage Family Promise are both men and women, but predominantly women are the ones that come to their program. So we felt like that was a natural fit.”

WomenSource is helping organize volunteers for the store. In order for the store to run, it will need to fill positions with people who take inventory of the items, price them, set everything up and actually help it run when it’s open. Burnette said she already has a good list of volunteers, but “there’s always room for more.”

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Millie Clements unloads items to donate to Family Promise of Hall County Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018. Family Promise is hosting a 'Christmas Promise Store' for its first time. They are taking toy donations to sell at a discounted price to Family Promise families. - photo by Scott Rogers

She’s hoping the store is successful and is able to continue for years to come. Burnette was excited when Family Promise contacted WomenSource to help because she’s focused on giving women every opportunity to “provide for their family,” especially when it’s “coming from their own resources and their own choices, instead of being handed” to them.

“We felt like this was a really good opportunity for women in particular to have some sense of participation in the process of providing for their children,” Burnette said.

Ayers said that is the ultimate goal. She wants to provide for as many families and children as possible, which is why she wanted to test out the Christmas Promise Store in the first place. In the past, Family Promise has had volunteers sponsor individual families, but this year, Ayers wanted to reach more.

“Right now, we have the potential to reach about 40 families if we fill every time slot we have,” Ayers said. “We thought that is way more than we served last year at Christmas, and then just giving families a way where they can be proud that they’ve shopped and paid — even if it’s just $2 for something — that they worked for that money and were able to provide Christmas for their families.”

Christmas Promise Store

Where: St. Paul United Methodist Church, 404 Washington St. NW, Gainesville

When: 1 to 6 p.m. Dec. 9 and 4 to 8 p.m. Dec. 10 and 11

Donate: Through Dec. 5 at Family Promise Day Center, 1001 Riverside Drive, Gainesville

Volunteer: Email

More info: Call 770-535-0786 or email

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Family Promise is hosting a 'Christmas Promise Store' for its first time at St. Paul United Methodist Church. Opening on Sunday, Dec. 9, they are taking donations to sell at a discounted price to Family Promise families. - photo by Scott Rogers