Family Focus: Women, children facing challenges can pick gifts at Holiday Store

by: Erica Bryant Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. —

The moving truck isn't a sleigh and the workers elves, but the spirit of giving is the same for volunteers donating items to the Safe Alliance Holiday Store.

"We'll be taking all the kids' stuff to another room," said coordinator Jane Taylor at the agency's shelter.

They're transforming the space into a store open to anyone who's used Safe Alliance services -- mostly women and children in crisis.

"(We help victims of) sexual assault, child abuse, domestic violence and some mental illness so anyone within any of those programs, their advocates or counselors can refer them," Taylor said.

With that referral, they can go shopping for free gifts. The store helped 150 families last year and organizers are expecting to serve the same this year. It has been slow with donations so far.

In one room, mothers can shop for their children, and in another, the staff will help children pick out presents for Mom.

"You should see these kids because, seriously, this is the first time for many of them that they've ever been able to get something for their mother," Taylor said.

It's a special experience for those overcoming challenges and the volunteers from Verizon Wireless wanted to help.

"It's important to help those who've suffered a traumatic change in their lives. It's a good way to give back and to help them get back on their feet help them adjust to a normal life," said Keivu Knox with Verizon Wireless.

With some gift options like pots and pans or bedding and linens, they'll leave with essentials for independence.

"It's a wonderful journey they've gone on and most of them don't have a lot. They aren't living in abuse but living violence free, and we want to help them celebrate this season," Taylor said.

The holiday store opens for business Saturday. Organizers said they often run low on presents for teens. If you'd like to donate gift items, call 704-332-2513.