PRESENT IN NEIGHBORHOOD: Ministry Christmas Store Helps Parents Giving Gifts – The Daily Reporter


INDIANAPOLIS – Sleeper babydolls and pastel cups. The right size blue van for a toddler. Headphones and speakers for teenagers. Neatly stacked board game shelves.

The gifts were lined up on and under long folding tables on Saturday, December 18. They turned a multi-purpose building behind a neighborhood church into a Christmas store for a day.

The Renewal Neighborhood Ministry operates the store annually in the neighborhood surrounding Charles Warren Fairbanks 105 School, which is part of the Indianapolis Public School District. Parents invited to shop there can buy Christmas gifts for a child for $ 5: two toys, a game, a hat and gloves and various small gifts like Christmas stockings.

Organizers say it’s a worthy way to come alongside families who might need help on Christmas: rather than presenting guessed gifts to a family, invite parents to a shopping experience instead. There they can select gifts that they know their child would appreciate, pay for them at a discount, and present them to the child themselves.

“So that at the end of the day, they have gifts that they themselves chose, paid for and labeled themselves,” Neighborhood Renewal Minister Mike Wilkins said.

Santa greets parents when they enter the parking lot and gives each a number. When it’s a parent’s turn to shop, volunteers serve as personal buyers, guiding parents through the sorted sections of toys, art and science kits, board games, and warm accessories. They get to know the family better, find out if there are other ways to help the Renewal, and receive prayer requests.

A buying guide summoned Jana Stadlberger, from where she called numbers to those waiting, to pray with a woman about her request. They found a quieter place, she began to pray, and the woman began to cry.

“I just hugged her for a really long time, just wanted her to feel the love,” Stadlberger said. “It’s so cool to have these relationships with people, to be able to pray with them and to give a hug if we need it.”

Renewal is part of that community near 42nd Street and Post Road in a number of ways. For several years, Renewal volunteers have tutored some Fairbanks students after school and organized summer book clubs. When schools were closed in the midst of COVID-19 quarantine in 2020, they helped distribute school food to families in need of food. When neighborhood parents expressed a desire for positive activities for their children, Renewal organized a flag football league.

Those invited to shop in the store are parents of children participating in tutoring or athletic programs, or other families that Fairbanks staff suggest Renewal invite.

The store is housed in a building owned by Crossroads Bible Church. It is supplied by people, including many from Outlook Christian Church in McCordsville, who donate new toys and other items. Some watch after Christmas sales or school supplies; many buy suggested gifts from an Amazon wishlist for the store and have them shipped. Part of the Renewal Christmas Store stock comes from what is left after another, a larger department runs its Christmas store. Barbie dolls, soccer balls, lava lamps: in various ways the store is full of merchandise every year.

When the shopping bag is full for a child, volunteers take it to the building garage, where other volunteers sit at tables to wrap all the presents. Meanwhile, the parent can sip hot chocolate and fill in the gift tags. The folks at Outlook bake dozens of cookies before the event, and each family brings home a plate of cookies.

“It’s just great to be able to help families make it through Christmas,” said Carli Mellentine, who helped with check-in on Saturday and later with getting the gifts in and out of the packing area. “(These are) people who love Jesus who love others, and we hope that is what really shines through.

“We do it for love.”

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