The Children’s Store has been providing a shopping place for kids as far back as 1980, thanks to the Glaciereens. There are not a lot of records on hand for any activity before that, although today’s organizers, believe the Cut Bank Women’s Club had a store for the kids even before 1980.
Regardless of when it started, it is opening up again this year, Saturday, Dec. 7 at Anna Jeffries Elementary School gymnasium. Kids can shop from 10 a.m. to noon on that day, buying gifts for their loved ones, ranging in price from 50 cents to $3.
There will be donuts and coffee in the cafeteria for parents, grandparents and guardians who need a place to wait out the shopping time the kids spend at the store.
“It takes awhile for the kids to shop and then for us to wrap the gifts for them, so having the cafeteria open for those waiting for the kids, gives them a place to sit and relax while the kids shop,” said organizer, Pam McLean of the Glaciereens.
Once the kids arrive at the gym, they can begin shopping and parents do not need to worry that they should be there to help. There are lots of volunteers on hand to help the kids get their shopping done and to find just the right gift for the special people in their life.
“If possible, we would like the kids to bring tags in with the names of the people they are buying for. That allows us to help them make their purchase and then gives us a tag to put on the gift once it is wrapped by us. If they forget the tags, we will have some on hand,” McLean said.
All the items in the store are priced and there is a wide selection of things for the kids to chose from. “We have lots of everything, but no clothes,” McLean said. “We do have jewelry, knick-knacks, games, books, cups and so much more. The one thing we always lack is stuff for the guys,” McLean shared.
All the “merchandise” for the store comes from donations the Glaciereens receive throughout the year. “We get items as early as June and July,” McLean said. “And we just store them until the event in early December.”
Actually, it is McLean that has been storing all the wonderful trinkets and tidbits they receive in donations. “My garage is full by the time the store opens,” she said laughing. “About this time of year, I am ready to get my garage back.”
Many of the items donated come from people cleaning out their houses or perhaps a relative’s house. “It seems like people just know about us and can bring us their stuff and we turn it into gifts for the kids to buy,” McLean explained.
McLean has been involved with the Glaciereens for approximately 12 years. “I belonged to another extension group a long time ago and then decided to join the Glaciereens somewhere around 12 years ago,” she said. “It is a good organization. And this is a fun project to be involved in. I really enjoy watching the kids come in and shop.”
While the Children’s Store serves a need in the community, it is also one of the Glaciereens biggest fundraisers for the year.
“From the Children’s Store, we are able to provide three scholarships to graduating seniors each year. The amount varies from year to year, so the better we do at the Children’s Store, the more we are able to give out in scholarships,” McLean said.
The dollar amount of the scholarships is not set each year until after the sales of the Children’s Store are totaled.
And how they do each year is very dependent on how many kids come through the doors and, as McLean said, “the weather too. If we have bad weather, it is a given we won’t get as many kids. Most of the time, we average over 100 kids. That is a lot to get through the shopping thing in the two hours we are open.”
Knowing that, McLean said they are always in need of volunteers to help them in a number of different capacities. “We need people to help us set up on the Friday afternoon before the event. We start that at 2:45 p.m. And then we need lots of help on the shopping day, volunteers doing everything from helping the kids shop, the wrapping, to being the cashier, to bagging the gifts and then clean-up when we are done. We usually get a good number of volunteers as it seems people really want to be involved in this project, but we can always use more. If you are interested, just stop in and we will find something for you to do. We will never turn anyone away.”
Lots of volunteers make this event what it is, a popular and fun time for the kids and those helping.
“We hear from a number of people who say, ‘I was a shopper at the Children’s Store and now I would like to give back and help out.’ That is always nice to know that those kids had a good experience and want to ensure the next round of kids enjoy it too,” McLean said.
The Children’s Store is a good time for everyone, be it the kids, the volunteers, the organizers and especially lady McLean. She loves this time of year for many reasons, the holiday season, the Children’s Store event and for getting back half of her garage once the store is open for business.