Feb 1, 2024

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Youth Works Christmas Store Report

It seems like every year during the Christmas store season, we go through a cycle of excitement and optimism that carries us right up to the Christmas store.

That optimism then quickly shifts to trepidation and ever so slight panic a few days before, as we worry whether or not we have enough gifts, the right assortment of gifts, or if we simply invited too many families this year.

This year was no different. However, just like in years past, we had the perfect amount of items at our Orchard store with a little extra left over to help bolster our Riverside store. When all was said and done, we were able to serve every family and student who visited the stores, and nobody who wanted to shop went away empty-handed.

So much goes into making the South Side Christmas Stores happen. Businesses, churches, small groups, families, and individuals partnering with CLDI are involved, from gathering donations to volunteering to wrap and connect with shoppers to tearing down the store and donating anything left. It is a true partnership between the CLDI family and the community of Billings as a whole.

One conversation I had with a gentleman at Orchard’s store truly summed up the heart behind this special event. A carpenter by trade, this father waited with a decent pile of gifts to purchase while mom picked out the last couple of items. He shared with me that he had heard about the store last year, but this was his first time attending and that it was such a blessing. Work had slowed down quite a bit, and he wasn’t sure how he would afford Christmas for his family.

He very proudly told me that, because of the store, they were able to buy gifts for all but their oldest child, and they had the perfect gift in mind that they could now afford. This makes it all worth it—assisting a parent or guardian with a dignified means to be the provider of their children’s Christmas.

At the Riverside store, kids shop for their family members. We saw so many students that we work with in the South Side neighborhood coming in and buying for parents and siblings. Watching middle school students pick out gifts for others is heartwarming. Middle school students aren’t the most selfless bunch, but we got to see a pretty nice glimmer of it as they bought socks for Dad, decorations for Mom, and an RC car for their little brother. Riverside gifted kids, whom they knew needed a little help, with an allowance to shop for gifts as well.

This year, with the help of all the volunteers, we accumulated over 350 hours of volunteer service and Christmas gifts either being bought by or purchased for roughly 500 students. Our donors and volunteers are the only way this could be possible.

Some teams chose to help us shop ahead of time for the store—spending donation money as it arrived. Our Warehouse students (South Side students involved in an eight-week discipleship program) went on a shopping spree at Scheels with their leaders, buying gifts that they would want for Christmas, knowing that other kids would love them. Many volunteers wrapped every gift purchased while their children and/or spouses acted as human shopping carts, helping carry gifts while customers shopped. It was such a joyful sight to see all the ways the community came together!

One great interaction I had was with a mother who got to shop at the Orchard store but also chose to serve at the Riverside store. During one of her shifts serving, she exclaimed that volunteering at the store was her favorite day of the year. She was so excited to be able to give back. The Billings’ community amazes us year after year. The donations, the many churches coming together to serve, the families that have made this event an annual tradition, the businesses that have this as part of their company Christmas celebration, it all comes together so beautifully and is such a tangible representation of Kingdom principles.

Some give, some serve, some pray… all hoping to see love and hope spread among an often hurting community. Thank you all for making this year’s Christmas Store such a huge success.

“I was a volunteer at the Riverside Christmas store. It was my first year, and I absolutely loved it! What CLDI does to be able to help the kids go shopping for their family members and friends is amazing. The Christmas store at Orchard School helped me afford great gifts for my child as well. If it wasn’t for CLDI, my daughter wouldn’t have had much of a Christmas this year. What CLDI does for others is absolutely PHENOMENAL, and I will DEFINITELY be volunteering more and giving back to help support those in need through CLDI. Merry Christmas, and thank you, CLDI!!!!!”

—Samantha (Volunteer & Christmas Store shopper)

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