Montgomery County Christmas Store provides help to families-in-need despite coronavirus pandemic

New River Valley News

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Va. (WFXR) — A local store in the New River Valley is already trying to keep up with demands for the upcoming Christmas season.

“The need is even greater this year. People are out of work. Finances are difficult for many people. They need this to have Christmas,” said Terri Lynn Howard, Public Relations Coordinator at the Montgomery County Christmas Store.

For 38 years, the popular store has served as a non-profit organization for low-income families in the area. Their mission is to provide a shopping experience for those in need during the holiday season.

Since April, the Board of the Montgomery County Christmas Store has been discussing ways in which the store could remain open during the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to a shortage of volunteers, and a poor ventilation system within the facility, the Board voted to not allow eligible shoppers inside.

Instead, board members have enacted certain protocols. Rather than a personal shopping experience, shoppers are given a wish list to fill out containing the store’s inventory- which ranges from a variety of items including clothes, food, and hygiene products. Once completed, volunteers pre-package the order and shoppers are then given an appointment to pick their items from the back loading area of the store.

Carol Fox is just one of the store’s many volunteers. She has been working with the organization for 27 years.

“You get to know everybody in the whole New River Valley, not just in your own town,” Fox said.

She spends her time browsing and selecting items in the store’s most prized section – the toy department.

The opportunity to work directly with shoppers is one of her favorite things to do as a volunteer. But with COVID-19 restrictions, she works alone.

Despite the changes, Fox says there’s a trade-off between extra work and helping others.

“It’s like Christmas. Every time you pick up somebody’s wish list you’re figuring out ‘oh that would be fun. We could get this truck, this Paw Patrol, maybe this doll,'” said Fox, “It’s like being a personal shopper.”

The store is also getting help from donations, which has surged from organizations across the community.

“More and more new goods have come in because people out there know we need it, and they’re focusing on helping us,” Howard said.

By thinking outside of the box, and balancing between safety and choice, Howard says she’s grateful that they’re able to continue making a difference for families in need.

“We feel grateful for the lives that we have in this community. We’re grateful to live here. And we just like to give back,” said Howard.

The Montgomery County Christmas Store is handling appointments for seniors and disabled adults, without children, from Monday, Nov. 16 through Friday, Nov. 20. Eligible families will be able to pick-up their items from Nov. 30 through Dec. 5.

For ways that you can help, visit their website here.

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