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Johnson County Christmas Bureau saved by last-minute donation: 'Our community steps up'

 Volunteers at the Johnson County Christmas Bureau in 2013.
Johnson County Christmas Bureau
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Volunteers at the Johnson County Christmas Bureau in 2013.

After a months-long search, the local nonprofit announced this week that it had found a commercial space to hold this year’s holiday shop for low-income Johnson Countians.

After an urgent call for help last week, local nonprofit Johnson County Christmas Bureau says it will be able to host its annual holiday shop this December after all.

The local nonprofit announced this week that it had found a commercial space to hold this year’s holiday shop for low-income Johnson Countians, following a months-long search.

“I believe that our community steps up for people in need in their time of need, and we have truly seen that this year,” Bureau executive director Nina Kimbrough said. “It absolutely shows the spirit of the holiday season, how people open up their hearts to make sure that our neighbors in need have joy and the things that they need during this time.”

In need of a miracle

The Johnson County Christmas Bureau announced last week that it was in "desperate" need of a 35,000- to 50,000-square-foot commercial space with docks, electricity, heat and restrooms in which to conduct its two-week market.

The group usually finds a donated space each year in which to do the holiday shop but had struggled for months to find one this time around.

Most recently, the Christmas Bureau operated its holiday shop out of a vacated Toys R Us store on 95th Street in Overland Park, but that space is now being leased full-time, officials said.

Prior to that, the holiday shop operated out of the former Sears on Metcalf Avenue, but that building is now in the process of being demolished.

“We want to make sure that our shoppers are able to shop with dignity,” Kimbrough said. “We allow our less fortunate (Johnson Countians) to be able to feel that they are worthy and that people care about them — that people see them and they want to help.”

This year, residents can find the Johnson County Christmas Bureau’s holiday shop at 9656 Quivira Road — at a space donated by Kansas City’s Block & Company, Inc., Realtors.

The market will occupy a 36,838-square foot space at the Orchard Corners Shopping Center, near the Oak Park Mall.

The space formerly housed a Stein Mart department store, which closed in 2020.

Ready for business

This year’s holiday shop will go from Dec. 2 to Dec. 10, and both shoppers and volunteers can sign up via the Johnson County Christmas Bureau website.
Johnson County Christmas Bureau officials say they plan to distribute more than $1 million dollars worth of donated goods to approximately 12,000 low-income Johnson Countians.

Items include things like toys, gently used winter coats and hats, diapers, books and bicycles.

Their inventory is currently stored at 14 storage sites across the county and will now be moved into the former Stein Mart space in the lead-up to the market’s launch next week.

Johnson County residents living below 150% of the poverty level are eligible to shop at the Johnson County Christmas Bureau’s market.

The nonprofit is not government funded, and operates almost entirely with volunteers and donations, according to its website.

In 2021, the holiday shop gave away 161,600 diapers, 65,000 books, and 6,800 children’s coats, officials said.

Kimbrough said the community began to respond to the bureau’s need for a space as soon as word got out last week that they were still in need of a space.

In some cases, she said this included residents calling phone numbers on the side of vacant buildings and asking about empty spaces themselves.

Although the holiday shop now has a space to operate out of, Kimbrough said the bureau is still in need of volunteers for various operational aspects — including setting up the shop, which began this week. They currently expect about 3,500 volunteers.

The bureau expects to serve at least 12,000 recipients this year — a jump up from 10,600 at last year’s pop-up.

The Bureau says it has already received more than 1,300 requests from nursing home residents, as well, after serving 900 nursing home residents last year.

This story was originally published on the Shawnee Mission Post.

Lucie Krisman is a reporter for The Shawnee Mission Post.
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