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Store lets low-income families Christmas shop for free

Christmas Connection, an Oklahoma City charity, operates a department store at which underprivileged families can make purchases without spending a cent.
BY KEN RAYMOND kraymond@opubco.com Published: December 3, 2011

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.”

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How to help

Donations

It's not too late to contribute to Christmas Connection's Christmas Shopping Days.

Money. Financial contributions will go toward purchasing items such as new coats and gifts for children.

New items. Particular needs are infant and toddler toys, basketballs, footballs, soccer balls and children's coats in all sizes.

Used items. Christmas Connection accepts most gently used items, excluding computer equipment. Everything else — clothes in all sizes, shoes, pots and pans, linens, books, decorative items, etc. — is welcomed.

Volunteers. Personal shoppers and shelf stockers are needed through Dec. 10. To volunteer, call Shelley Dutton at 634-2006 or email sdutton@christmasconnection.org.

New and used items may be dropped off at all metro area Quik Print locations and at the Christmas Connection store, 5728 S May Ave. Toys may be dropped off at any Bank of Oklahoma location through Dec. 16.

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