CORE/Hollister School District’s Holiday Store Spreads Christmas Cheer!
Hundreds of Taney County children almost didn’t have Christmas this past year. Thanks to the generosity of donors and clients, and some quick thinking by leadership, the unthinkable was averted, and Christmas was saved!
CORE’s clients have numerous community projects they work on throughout the year. One of the new favorites is the CORE/Hollister School District Holiday Store, where underprivileged families can obtain household goods and toys completely free of charge. The original Holiday Store was first conceived during the 2020 pandemic and turned out to be a stunning success. Seeking to repeat the original achievement, throughout the year our clients diligently collected, sorted, conducted quality assurance on, and stored thousands of items generously donated by Tri-Lakes retailers. This year, however, there was an unexpected glitch that put Christmas cheer at risk.
As Christmas approached, our CEO Cary McKee met with Hollister School District staff at our warehouse location housing all of the Christmas items. As they surveyed the year’s collection, Cary noticed something that troubled him. Where were all the toys?
“At that time I noticed that we were limited on toys,” Cary told us, “we had quite a bit of items for adults, but how do we supplement the toys that are needed? Because that’s what this is about, putting smiles on children’s faces and giving hope to those in need.” The thought of children not having presents to open on Christmas morning was unbearable to Cary. He knew that something had to be done, and fast.
Time was running short, too, because the Holiday Store was barely over a month away. So, Cary did three things. First, he appealed directly to CORE staff and clients who wished to buy and donate toys for the event. Second, he created a Giving Tuesday campaign to appeal to donors wanting to give the children a happy holiday. Third, CORE committed itself to donating funds as well. And the result? Based on what we learned from Cary, we’d say Super Awesome!
First, as Cary said, “Although this was a last minute toy drive, when we asked who would be willing to contribute a 10 or 20 dollar gift for the cause, there was an outpouring of support. There were so many gifts being brought in – games, toys, bicycles – you name it. They really did a great job buying middle school age-appropriate gifts, especially, the things that we may not have thought of as a staff.”
Second, “Giving Tuesday not only met its goal but also exceeded it. CORE did spend money out of its general funds to acquire items for the children, but the generosity of Giving Tuesday donors helped to greatly enlarge expenditures for the children.”
Third, the monies available to obtain toys were so great that our purchases began making a noticeable dent in the stocks of certain Tri-Lakes retailers. For this reason, CORE’s procurement staff thoughtfully began staggering purchases between stores so that nobody would run out of a particular item. The results were startling, and touching. Within a week, the conference room at CORE’s Branson Recovery Center was jam packed with toys!
Now it was time to set up the Holiday Store. Last year’s store had taken nearly a month. This year’s store took barely a week to set up because our client volunteers already had done much of the preparatory work throughout the year. So, when the time came to move items over to the school district, our trucks were able to move items already organized and checked for quality. In addition, the latest store benefitted from the people at CORE and the school district already knowing each other. As Hollister Middle School counselor Sandy Brown told us, “Whatever we needed, we all worked together. We dropped what we were doing and helped each other. I think that’s pretty cool. I just think CORE’s awesome.”
We very much want to thank Superintendent Dr. Brian Wilson and all of the school district’s counselors who made the Holiday Store possible. Not only did they create space in which to set up an entire store, but they also undertook the absolutely monumental task of discovering families in need and identifying individual needs within each family. They were present from start to finish and made sure that everyone was blessed. We specifically want to mention here each member of the counseling staff: Sandy Brown, Middle School; Tonya Nash and Jessica Frost, High School; Ben Gibson, Elementary School; and Shannon Donathan, Early Childhood Center. They all worked so hard!
The event ran during the week of December 13th and was a resounding success. There were lots of smiles and tears from thankful parents. There were some unexpected and pleasant surprises, too. Sandy told us that several families who shopped in the Holiday Store from the previous year returned this year saying, “you helped us before, and now we want to pay it forward. So they adopted kids this year.”
Cary expressed his thanks to Dr. Wilson, school district staff, and CORE’s clients and staff, all of whom made the Holiday Store another incredible event and blessing for the community. Moreover, to make sure that the children next year won’t do without, Cary’s already entered into a donorship agreement involving a major internet retailer. He told us with a twinkle in his eye, “Next year we’ll be able to work on receiving goods from that partnership too.”