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Johnson County Christmas Bureau Addresses Growing Need

The Christmas Shop is housed inside of a Steve & Barry's department store.
Andrea Silenzi
The Christmas Shop is housed inside of a Steve & Barry's department store.

By Ashley Ferguson


Olathe, KS – The Johnson County Christmas Bureau has opened its doors to their annual Holiday Shop at the Great Mall of the Great Plains in Olathe, Kansas. This is their 50th year creating a shopping experience for low income families around the holidays.

Director Barb McNeile says that "Poverty" and "Johnson County" aren't words often heard in the same sentence, and they should be. Though the population in Johnson County grew by 2% last year, the number of families below the poverty line grew by 64%. About 10% of the Johnson County population under 18 are living at 100% poverty level.

After a year of collecting donations and buying new toys, clothing, and personal care items, the long-awaited week-long shopping experience is available for thousands of clients. Also available are groceries, gifts, books, and other goods for the holiday season and for day-to-day nourishment.

Because of the growing demand for these services, the Bureau had to turn away over 500 families last year. With their 2010 motto "say yes to more," they have achieved their goal in serving those 500 families this time around. This December's event is serving 3,300 families, over 12,000 individuals. However, the applications went fast this October and the clientele was filled in just a few weeks. They ended up having to turn away several hundred families again.

The volunteers of the Bureau are the secret ingredients to the shop's yearly success. From the time of the initial set up in late November to the very last day of the shop, over 3,000 community members help out with the event. With everything from their time and energy to their hand-crafted toys and winter garments, these volunteers provide thousands of families with the true spirit of the holidays. Individuals who never thought they would be in this difficult situation are graced with the love and commitment of these guardian angels.

The JCCB's Holiday Shop closes its doors on December 13th and will begin collecting for next year's event. While they have enough volunteers, they are always in need of more donations. Check their website http://www.jccb.org for updates.

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