Shopping for others is one of the most rewarding parts of the holiday season — but what do you do when you can't afford to buy gifts?
More than 800 central Oklahoma families this month will turn to Christmas Connection, an Oklahoma City nonprofit that offers a unique shopping experience. You see, everything in the Christmas Connection store is free.
“It's very clean, very well-organized,” said Shelley Dutton, executive director. “Everything is sized and ordered. In fact, we just had the floors polished, so they're sparkling clean. It's not like a thrift shop at all. It looks like a department store, like a smaller Target.”
Like other stores, Christmas Connection, 5728 S May Ave., has separate departments — clothes, decorations, toys, home decor, etc. Shelves are filled with new and gently used products, including personal care items that food stamps won't cover.
Volunteers help customers navigate the store and find the items they need the most.
Limits are placed on the number of items each shopper can select. The limits are based on the size of the store's inventory; right now, for example, the store has roughly 1,800 women's blouses, so customers can take as many as they need. Toothpaste, however, is limited to two tubes per person.
Shoppers are referred to Christmas Connection by a series of partner agencies and schools. The charity's Christmas Shopping Days program began Thursday and will continue through Dec. 10.
“We really want to give kids 14 and under at least a new coat and a new toy,” Dutton said. “More than that if we can.”