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Kansas City families in need of Christmas gifts get a boost from City Union Mission

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Bek Shackelford-Nwanganga
/
KCUR 89.3
Shakethia Patterson shops for her youngest child, a five-month-old.

Low-income Kansas City families gathered Wednesday for the last day of City Union Mission’s Christmas Store, which has provided gifts for around 800 families this year. 

With Christmas only days away, families in need were able to find gifts for their loved ones at City Union Mission’s Christmas Store, which provides free gifts, a holiday meal kit and coupons for meat.

Wednesday was the final day of the season for the store, which opens every November and has been in operation for more than 30 years.

“It’s special because I get to choose what they like and what I know they will play with,” said a shopper named Gabrielle (she asked that KCUR not use her last name), who had her hands full with twin two-year-olds and a one-year-old. She said if it wasn’t for City Union Mission, she wouldn’t have been able to give them presents.

Christmas Store City Union Mission
Bek Shackelford-Nwanganga
/
KCUR 89.3
Volunteers made sure to decorate the makeshift store for Christmas.

Another mom shared a similar story. Shakethia Patterson, who has five children, said she lost her job during the pandemic. Before she found out about the Christmas Store, Patterson said, she was stressed about being able to afford presents for her family.

“Anything counts,” said Patterson. “Even if they get one gift apiece, I know for my kids it will put a smile on their faces and that’s what matters to me the most.”

All of the gifts at the store are either purchased through donations or donated directly. Gifts that are not handed out are saved for the next Christmas season.

“It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to set up and run our Christmas Store each year,” City Union Mission CEO Terry Megli said in a news release. “We are blessed to have the support of many individuals, businesses, churches and groups who have donated gifts and volunteered to help.”

City Union Mission
Bek Shackelford-Nwanganga
/
KCUR 89.3
Billy Hastings stands where extra supplies are stored, holding a handmade bag filled with hygiene items.

People gravitate toward personal care items packaged in hand-sewn bags or Christmas-themed gift bags, said Billy Hastings, City Union Mission’s community assistance administrator.

“Food stamps actually do not cover personal hygiene items, like things that you would normally think of being simple human dignity items,” said Hastings. “All of our clients are either within 30% of the federal poverty line or they find themselves on food stamps, so if those situations are in somebody's life, we will serve them.”

Hastings said City Union Mission also strives to provide full-size sets of body wash, shampoo and conditioner, or shaving products. But the Christmas Store also has a wide variety of items including toys, coffee makers and tool sets.

To receive services, people must apply in person and provide evidence of financial need at the City Union Mission Community Assistance Center, where the store is located.

Shoppers were allowed to choose two to three gifts per family member, as well as one gift for the household such as a cookware or linen set, and were provided with a holiday meal kit and vouchers to purchase meat.

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Bek Shackelford-Nwanganga
/
KCUR 89.3
Seasonal employee Karen Wade arranges items on a shelf. This is her third year working at the Christmas Store.

“It brings me so much joy,” said Karen Wade, an employee at the store who was back for her third season. She said she keeps coming back because the job is so fulfilling.

“Just like the woman that was here earlier, she was in tears because she could shop for her eight children,” said Wade. “She was able to give each of them something that she hand picked and I'm just grateful that we were able to have it for her. It's a great thing.”

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