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Johnson County holiday shop needs volunteers

Johnson County holiday shop
Posted at 4:00 AM, Nov 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-17 07:01:50-05

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — The Johnson County Christmas Bureau is looking for 1,000 more volunteers to help run its 2021 Holiday Shop.

Every year, more than 3,000 families participate in the holiday shop. It's meant for those who are struggling to afford holiday gifts and groceries.

Families can come "shop" for toys, clothing, books, food and more, all for free.

This year, the shop will take place from Dec. 3 to Dec. 11 at the former Toys "R" Us store at 11620 W. 95th Street in Overland Park, Kansas.

"We're going to set it up like a store," Larry Bigus, executive director of the Christmas Bureau said. "And our clients who cannot afford to go to a store and buy things will have a true holiday shopping experience that those of us who can afford it kind of take for granted."

Bigus said typically, they get a lot of groups of volunteers from local businesses and organizations. But because of COVID-19, many businesses are foregoing those group outings this year.

They need around 3,000 volunteers and so far only around 2,000 have signed up.

"It's one of the warmest, heartwarming experiences a person can have during the holiday season," Bigus said. "If you volunteer during shop, you meet your own low-income neighbors on a one-to-one basis. You spend time with them. You get to know them. The clients are so appreciative. It makes their whole holiday, their whole December. And it just warms your heart to know that you helped that person that you just spent an hour or two with."

Volunteers are needed for a variety of tasks, from escorting the shoppers around the store, to restocking shelves, to loading the gifts into the shoppers' cars. The group also needs volunteers in the days before and after the shop to help set up and tear down.

Anyone wishing to volunteer can sign up for a shift through this form.

For those who can't volunteer, the Christmas Bureau is still accepting donations. Monetary donations can be made on the Christmas Bureau's website.

Donations of items are also accepted. The group especially needs gently-used or new children's coats, canned food and educational toys.

Email to arrange a drop-off, or drop off items at the holiday shop between Dec. 3 and 11.

Families are eligible to shop if their household income is less than 150% of the federal poverty level. For a family of four, that is around $39,750. Families can apply to shop through this form.