Christmas Store allows struggling Dayton area families to ‘shop’ for free gifts

Organizers call it a matter of dignity for those in need, say they’re serving 340 families in three weeks

A local holiday outreach program believes that every child should experience the joy of the holiday season.

The Christmas Store on South Main Street in Centerville is the work of Hope4Centerville-Washington Twp. in conjunction with Fairhaven Church, and allows struggling area families to “shop” for gifts for their young child or teen at no cost, according to Steve Rudisill, H4C-WT’s director and lead pastor of The Point Church.

“Fairhaven had done it in the past, kind of like a weekend-type deal, and Lisa Magoffin, who serves at Fairhaven (as outreach director), came to me and said, ‘What might it look like if Hope4Centerville did this?’ ” Rudisill said. “We encouraged the different folks that come to our monthly meetings ‘What if we could get a storefront for several weeks? Just think of the impact we could have collectively.’ ”

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Families are referred to The Christmas Store through case workers, schools, area churches, assistance programs like Hannah’s Treasure Chest and local public school systems, including Dayton and Centerville, Rudisill said.

Once they’ve signed up and been approved by The Christmas Store, parents make an appointment to come and shop, choosing three gifts for each of their children, he said.

The Christmas Store, which kicked off its efforts the week of Oct. 16, wraps up this Saturday.

H4C-WT, which is part of the Miami Valley Leadership Foundation, got its start in June 2021 after seeing the positive effect “Hope4″ groups had in other area communities. Since then, H4C-WT has connected with nearly 30 community partners including churches, schools, nonprofits, and other local organizations to provide struggling families with school supplies, haircuts and general health care needs.

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Rudisill called The Christmas Store “a God-sized dream” that has come to fruition.

“It’s just been spectacular,” he said. “Over (the) three weeks, we’re going to have served 340 families that would have ... been hard-pressed to find the opportunity to shop for their families for Christmas. It’s kind of restoring their dignity and allowed them to do that. (We’re) just really proud of it.”

Besides toys and games, the Christmas Store also provides necessities like socks, underwear, gloves and winter coats. In addition, the store offers personal shoppers and gift wrapping. Families also can bring home resources from CareSource and COVID kits from Public Health-Dayton & Montgomery County.

“Then there’s someone from the faith community that’s there to pray with them, if they want to pray,” Rudisill said. “We give them a Bible, if they want one, because Hope4 is a faith-based organization.”

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Magoffin said one of the great things about the store is “how it helps bring people together.”

“The Christmas Store is not simply a transactional experience,” she said. “We’re using this opportunity to build relationships in our community, and relationships change everything.”

Rudisill said The Christmas Store is a testimony to the fact that people are “inherently good” and that they want to help.

“You’ve just got to give them opportunities to do that,” he said.

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