Sunday, October 20, 2013

From Me To You

Shelf of Love: Gifts my kids made me in school over the years
This is the story of how I came to be in the process of opening a gift store focused on a child's shopping experience in the Rolling Oaks Mall this year.

During the holiday season of 1997 I participated in the absolute best PTA fundraiser ever. My oldest daughter brought home a flyer in her backpack that said:

"Bring your child to Santa's PTA Holiday Gift Store tonight to shop for his/her family, friends and teacher!" 

Despite the short notice (don't get me started - see previous blog post), I was intrigued. At this point in my life I had a 4th grader and a 4 year old, we had moved 9 times in 11 years as a military family, and I was tired and pretty close to running out of innovative kid gift giving ideas. Here are a few of  our holiday gift-giving ideas for gifts from the kids: 

A poem from 5 year old Ariel to me
  • Draw pictures
  • Write songs
  • Write poems
  • Exchange stuffed animals 
  • Coupon books
  • Things they brought home from school
  • Dollar Store
  • Walmart
My oldest was an accomplished artist very early on, so the picture drawing was always fun for her. You'd think it was a cheap option too- but it always seemed to involve an expensive trip to Michaels for special paper, pencils, and all the trimmings. Poems and songs were fun too.  I've framed and hung some of the poems and pictures in the house over the years. 

The year where we discovered the "coupon book" was awesome, and we've used that one many times since. My current coupon book is a little low on foot massages. I may have to start dropping hints to Zoe for Christmas 2013.

Exchanging stuffed animals only works when they are really little and it can't be that special one, of course. But the selection, wrapping and giving process was pretty neat. The girls did adoption certificates for each others' animals along with "Care and Feeding Instructions." 

The stuff they sporadically brought home from school was usually just for me, mom; a couple of years, dad got lucky too.

The harder years were when they got a little older and started throwing around words like "allowance." They seemed to think I should give them a budget and turn them loose in the store with cash. Which I've done. Those were not the best years.  They usually involved crowds of people in Wal-Mart.  Ugh. 

Another favorite:  Have you ever taken your kid to the store, pretended not to "look" while they picked out your gift AND while you stood in line and paid for it?!  Well, I have. Sure there were a few years their father took them, but the burden was usually mine. 

So, back to that intriguing flyer. We decided to go to the school gym for this fundraiser. Here's what happened: we walked in the door where we were greeted by a high school student "Elf" who took both the 4th grader and the 4 year old (bonus!) to a small table to fill out a "gift wish list."  I was asked by one of the PTA organizers what my child's "gift budget" was (i.e. what was the amount I was willing to donate to the PTA). The Elf was told what my child's budget was and they completed the wish list.

Then they disappeared behind a curtain to "Santa's Shop."  About 15 minutes later the 4th grader emerged, proudly toting a big brown paper bag with a straw handle, followed by the 4 year old toddling behind her with a similar bag. These bags were filled with small clumsily, but lovingly wrapped gifts for me, my husband, each other and their teachers. The kids each had a bag of "under the tree ready" Christmas presents! Oh the joy! Oh the happiness! They were beaming. 

Both girls were so very proud and pleased with themselves after their trip to Santa's Gift Shoppe. On Christmas morning they were so excited when we opened the gifts. Mine was a mug. I think it said "mom." I don't remember any of the other gifts, but I'll never forget the girl's faces.

I only lived in Virginia that one year. In 1998 I was back in San Antonio and have been looking for that kid-shopping-gift-giving opportunity ever since. 

To be honest, what actually happened that night at the fundraiser and what I've filled in and embellished over the years are all jumbled together now and comprise my vision for our store: "From Me To You": care/of Big Brothers Big Sisters.  I've thought about trying it as a fundraiser for so many years that I've added to it for 15 years and now it's going to happen. :) 

Save Your Pennies, Kids!
Next Saturday, October 26, 2013, we are having a "preview" of this store (if we manage to be ready in time.) The mall has an event called "Boo Bash" and a thousand kids have been invited. We are inviting everyone we know too and giving out piggy banks to all the kids and inviting them back for our Grand Opening on Black Friday. They'll be able to see samples of what we'll be selling, and we want their feedback on gifts we might not have thought of. We'll also be asking parents what they think of our comfy waiting room and how we can improve that for them. The store is separated into 2 halves: the gift shop and the waiting room. Both sides are visible from outside the store through the mall's glass shop windows.

I will be posting pictures as soon as I have them. 

"From Me To You" care/of Big Brothers Big Sisters Gift Store
The store will only be open for 26 days, until Christmas Eve. 100% of the proceeds will go to Big Brothers Big Sisters and all contributions towards a child's shopping budget are tax deductible. Donations can also be made to the organization in honor of anyone you'd like to buy a holiday gift for. You'll be helping an at risk kid get a life saving, life changing Big Brother or Big Sister however you choose to participate. 

Hope to see you all there!