After 13 years, local Adventist church in Colorado continues to increase its community footprint.
Published on: 12-15-2023
Newday Adventist Church in Colorado, United States, served record numbers of Denver-area families in its annual Christmas Store at AdventHealth Parker Hospital, December 2-5. Last year had been the biggest year, with service to 150 families. This year, 200 families, or more than 1,000 people, were blessed by the Christmas store and its community partnerships.
The Christmas Store idea began almost 15 years ago, when the members at Newday asked themselves if the community would even notice if they were not around anymore. They wanted to be a light to the community and make a difference to those in need around them. So, the Christmas Store opened in 2010.
“This is our 13th year in the Christmas Store,” Newday lead pastor Lisa Cardinal said. “We are partnering with 13 public schools in our community, who are the best people situated to know the needs [of the families] they choose [to participate]. The families come here by invitation.”
Every child that comes to the Christmas Store can choose a gift for their parents, grandparents, and sibling(s), organizers explained. Planning and shopping for the program occurs all year long, in order to provide high-quality gifts to the children who shop. Two storage units are used to hold the gifts until the store is open.
Shawna Sajdak, a leader in the program since it began, said, “We want to provide memories and moments and excitement for being able to give gifts to family members that wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to do so.”
The program relies on volunteers who serve in such roles as greeters to get the children to the store, personal shoppers who assist the children in picking out gifts, wrappers of the gifts, and people to get the children back safely to their families with gifts in hand.
Staff of the Rocky Mountain Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church (RMC) had the privilege to serve one evening, December 4, at the Christmas Store, along with volunteers from Newday church, AdventHealth Parker Hospital, and others.
“Trying to make the experience for the children fun and meaningful made it fun and memorable for me,” Tamara Mallory, RMC accountant, said. “When you try and bless someone else, you receive blessings as well.”
RMC communication assistant Liz Kirkland agreed. “The children really touched your heart. Many siblings were in the store together, and you could feel the care and awareness they had for each other. The joy and energy in the store were contagious.”
When asked what was their favorite part of the Christmas Store, seven-year-old participant Jayce enthusiastically commented, “I love getting my family presents.” Melanie, an eight-year-old participant, said, “I love seeing all of the toys.”
One of the volunteers on that night, Baily, had participated in the program when she was a child and was grateful to be able to serve now that she is older. “I hope that the Christmas Store is going for many more years,” she said. “It was such a great experience, and we got so excited to go every year.”
Cardinal noted, “One of the things that we hear back from the schools is that the kids, long after their toys have disintegrated or disappeared, what they remember is the way they were treated in the Christmas Store. They remember that people were so nice to them, and that people smiled at them. And it’s really the way they were treated that are the memories they carry.”