NORTH AUGUSTA — Naquesha Harris is excited to see her children’s faces when they open their presents on Christmas morning.
Harris and her children are among about 200 families who are receiving presents this year from the Christmas Store, an outreach program that provides back-to-school, Thanksgiving and Christmas items for families in need.
“My 2-year-old, he’ll know what’s going on this year, so I want to see how he reacts to everything,” she said Wednesday as she waited at First Baptist Church of North Augusta’s Family Life Center for her children’s presents. The North Augusta mother also has a 6-month-old child.
It was her first year looking to the outreach for Christmas help.
“It means a lot to me,” she said of the assistance, “and it also shows me that there are people out there who are caring and are willing to help those who are less fortunate.”
The Christmas Store started in 1984 through Community Ministries of North Augusta.
When the organization was no longer able to continue the program about 10 years ago because of the increasing number of people seeking assistance, Louvenia Mathews wanted to ensure that the program continued. She and a group of volunteers now organize the store.
Families applied for Christmas assistance in October. A committee for the Christmas Store used the state’s poverty guidelines to determine who qualified, Mathews said.
“Majority of the persons that we serve are on some kind of assistance,” she said. “They are single moms or have children, and otherwise, without help, they wouldn’t be able to get something for their kids.”
Sponsors buy items for the children based on the child’s age and clothing size, and select three items on the child’s Christmas list.
Parents began picking up items Tuesday and will continue through Friday. The parents must bring with them a thank-you card for the sponsor.
This year, families also received turkeys and other food items, which were distributed by Golden Harvest Food Bank.
While the Christmas Store has found sponsors for 524 children this year, there are still 25 that need to be sponsored.
“As God would have it, we have never, not one year, taken an applicant and not been able to service them,” she said of past years.
Those interested in sponsoring a child should contact Louvenia Mathews at (803) 474-3544 or Lori Mathews at (803) 270-8960.