South Po­tomac Church gives gifts to those in need

An­nual free ‘Christ­mas Shop’ as­sists 525 fam­i­lies

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU jan­fen­son-comeau@somd­news.com

For a brief time, the sanc­tu­ary at South Po­tomac Church in White Plains was trans­formed into a shop­ping mall com­plete with toys, jew­elry, bi­cy­cles, cloth­ing and more — all ab­so­lutely free.

Event or­ga­nizer Cindy Barnes said 525 in­di­vid­u­als lined up to en­ter be­fore the doors opened at 9 a.m. Satur­day — some as early as 6 p.m. the day be­fore.

The “Christ­mas Shop” is an an­nual event at South Po­tomac Church de­signed to give back to the com­mu­nity, Barnes said.

Barnes and her sis­ters San­dra Copeland and Toni Et­ter took over the event nine years ago, af­ter it was in dan­ger of dy­ing out due to lack of or­ga­niz­ers.

Since then, the an­nual shop has grown. Shop­pers are ad­mit­ted in groups of 60 to shop on the floor. Each is given a num­ber of “An­gel Dol- lars” based on the num­ber of fam­ily mem­bers they are shop­ping for and 20 minutes to shop, Barnes said.

“Each adult gets 10, each child three and each teen five. If a mom comes in and she’s shop­ping but she doesn’t have her kids, she just tells them how many she’s shop­ping for,” Barnes said.

Be­tween shop­pers, vol- un­teers re­stock the ta- bles with ad­di­tional items in boxes.

In­vi­ta­tions were given out through lo­cal non­profit agen­cies, but news of the event also spread by so­cial me­dia.

“Word just has a way of get­ting out,” Barnes said.

She said no proof of in­come is re­quired; ev­ery­one is taken at their word that they have a need.

“A lot of peo­ple don’t ex­pect that,” Barnes said. “It’s hard for them to grasp that they don’t need to bring their life’s his­tory, that if you say you have a need, it’s all on the honor sys­tem.”

Barnes said that this year, she has been get­ting a lot of calls from in­di­vid­u­als in need who are fight­ing can­cer.

“Maybe they have a hus­band who works, makes just a lit­tle too much to qual­ify for as­sis­tance, but yet not enough to pur­chase presents. One lady who called me has nine grand­chil- dren, and she was just di­ag­nosed with can­cer,” Barnes said.

Barnes said 137 vol­un­teers worked for a week set­ting up the Christ­mas shop, and ap­prox­i­mately 150 vol­un­teers as­sisted with sign-ins, re­stock­ing and shop­ping as­sis­tance.

Left­over clothes will be do­nated to Hooks and Hang­ers, a thrift store in La Plata, Barnes said.

A num­ber of or­ga­niza- tions helped make the event pos­si­ble. Barnes said J&J Porta­bles do­nated the use of por­ta­ble toi­lets for those wait­ing hours in line. Bike Doc- tor in Wal­dorf also do­nated 27 re­fur­bished bi­cy­cles, ob­tained through its trade-in pro­gram.

“We have this trade-in pro­gram, where if they bring it back within three years they get a per­cent­age of the sale back, based on the con­di­tion of the bike,” said Bike Doc­tor co-owner Theresa Richard­son. “We re­fur­bish the bike … and those are the ones that we do­nate.”

This is the se­cond year Bike Doc­tor has do­nated bi­cy­cles to the event.

“I think a lot of the kids who bring the bikes in are ex­cited to know some­one else is go­ing to use them af­ter they’ve grown out of it,” Richard­son said.

Barnes said the feed­back from the event was very pos­i­tive.

“For some rea­son, this year, it seemed ev­ery- one who came through the line or out the exit door was ex­tra grate­ful this year,” Barnes said. “Peo­ple were ex­cep­tion­ally grate­ful, even to the point of tears at times.”

Barnes said she is hum­bled to be able to put this event on ev­ery year.

“We’re the ones who re­ally get blessed,” Barnes said, speak­ing of her­self and fel­low vol­un­teers.

STAFF PHO­TOS BY JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU

Five hun­dred and twenty-five fam­i­lies at­tended South Po­tomac Church’s an­nual “Christ­mas Shop” Satur­day.

Hun­dreds of in­di­vid­u­als lined up out­side South Po­tomac Church Satur­day morn­ing for the church’s an­nual “Christ­mas Shop” to help fam­i­lies in need.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

One hun­dred and thirty-seven vol­un­teers as­sisted with run­ning South Po­tomac Church’s an­nual “Christ­mas Shop” Satur­day to help fam­i­lies in need this hol­i­day sea­son.

STAFF PHOTO BY JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU

Vol­un­teers re­stock ta­bles in the time be­tween groups of shop­pers dur­ing South Po­tomac Church’s an­nual Christ­mas Shop Satur­day.

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