by Alan Hodge
Saturday saw a white Christmas come early for hundreds of families at Lake Forest Church in Huntersville. Not only was the church sanctuary a scene of warmth and giving, but also the heavens cooperated with an hour-long deluge of fluffy white snow that seemed custom-ordered.
The occasion was the special Christmas Village Toy Store event that Lake Forest put on again this Yuletide season to help families who might be feeling a monetary pinch by allowing them to buy toys and other gifts at greatly reduced prices.
Speaking to one group out of the 180 or so event volunteers who took part, Lake Forest Church Pastor of Missions Michael Flake summed up the theme for the day.
“This is about dignity and joy,” Flake said. “You all are the face of it. Let the people who come here today see God’s love in how you treat them.”
Logistics of the Christmas Village Toy Store saw rows of shelves set up in the church sanctuary and laden with thousands of gifts that included games, electronics, books, stuffed animals, sports equipment and other goodies sure to gladden a heart on Christmas morning. The items were gathered and donated by members of Lake Forest Church, Forest Hill Church, Stonebridge and Warehouse 242 churches, Huntersville Youth Athletic Association, and Boy Scout Troop 19.
After collecting the toys, event organizers researched the approximate retail value of each item and knocked off 70 percent to arrive at a price for participants. Folks who were eligible were given a $50 voucher from locations such as the school their child attends.
Stonebridge Church Pastor Brent Jones said his group gave vouchers to kids at Turning Point Academy.
“It is such a great idea on so many levels,” Jones said.
A unique twist to the arrangement saw money collected for the toys used to feed the hungry in the Huntersville area.
“This creates dignity instead of a handout,” said event volunteer Carey Gordon. “Parents can be a provider rather than someone else choosing a gift for their child. It’s a win-win situation.”
The line of people waiting to go into the toy area filled a hallway.
Parent David McLain, of Charlotte, was one of the shoppers Saturday and had several bags bulging with gifts for his kids.
“This is a good thing,” McLain said. “I really enjoyed myself, and it saved me some dollars. It is a real blessing.”
Like McLain, Charlie Ortega availed himself of the gift selection and had good things to say about the Christmas Village Toy Store.
“It is very well organized, and everyone is so friendly and helpful,” Ortega said. “I have two girls and got 10 items for my $50. It’s a good deal.”
In addition to the toys, hot drinks, holiday cookies and folks in Santa hats, a crackling fire in the sanctuary lobby added to the overall feeling of cheer. And, even though the snow stopped around noon and melted away, the smiles on everyone who took part in the giving and receiving at Forest Hill Church lasted all day.