The Christmas Store needs your help with record number of families in need

Published: Nov. 23, 2021 at 5:10 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 23, 2021 at 6:55 PM CST
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DE PERE, Wis. (WBAY) - For the last three years, hundreds of families in Brown County who’ve fallen on hard times have still been able to see the joy of Christmas on their kids’ faces thanks to the generosity of the community.

De Pere Unified Schools, West De Pere Schools and Syble Hopp School are partnering with De Pere Christian Outreach and local churches to open the Christmas Store each December, allowing families to purchase gifts at greatly reduced prices.

But the need has grown so much this year, they can only serve everyone in need if the community steps up big and they do it soon.

A large room just inside the First United Presbyterian Church on Webster Avenue in De Pere is looking pretty empty right now.

On December 7th and 8th, volunteers hope to see it full of Christmas spirit, bustling with activity and chalked full of toys, clothes and all kinds of gifts for families in need.

“I think, especially at the holidays, it’s a wonderful time to remember about giving back to others and focusing on the true meaning of Christmas,” says First United Presbyterian Church Pastor Meggan Farwell.

It’s called the Christmas Store.

Over the next few weeks, donations will be collected at schools and churches across the De Pere area, allowing families who otherwise cannot afford Christmas gifts to shop at rummage sale prices. (A document listing what kinds of donations are most needed can be found at the bottom of this article.)

“It’s literally the two best days of the school year for us social workers,” says De Pere school social worker Melanie Brick. “To see our families have their needs met and even some of their wants is truly remarkable. We are so excited for them to be able to purchase things that they’d never be able to purchase without this store.”

In 2018, its first year, the Christmas Store helped 107 families.

That’s not even close to the need this year.

“This year, we’re planning on about 175 families that are presently enrolled, so it’s more families every year, so we need more donations every year,” says Marilyn Kabat, a Christmas Store volunteer.

Organizers have received some donations, but given the sharp increase in families struggling just to pay bills or find housing, they simply don’t have enough donations to serve everyone.

That’s why they’re asking the community to step up.

“It provides so much joy and excitement that they can have a nice holiday for their family,” says Amy Murphy, operations manager at De Pere Christian Outreach.

“The joy that these families feel while they’re here is remarkable,” adds Brick.

“This is what Christmas is about,” says Kabat, smiling.

The Christmas Store organizers are looking for all kinds of donations-- anything families would put on their own Christmas lists.

Details from the Christmas Store organizers:

  • New, unwrapped gift items may be dropped off in the social work office at the district office, the front office of your respective school, or we are willing to pick up gifts from your home. We want to make this easy for you, as we are incredibly grateful for your support! All gifts must be collected by Thursday, December 2nd.
  • If you aren’t a shopper and wish to make a monetary donation, checks may be written out to “De Pere Christian Outreach” with “Christmas Store” written in the memo line and can be dropped off at or mailed to the district office to the attention of Michelle Dahlke or Melanie Brick.
  • If you are not able to contribute at this time, but would like to help this cause, we will be looking for volunteers to work at the store. The Christmas Store dates are Tuesday, December 7th and Wednesday, December 8th (adults only), with additional set up volunteers needed on Saturday, December 4th (kids and adults welcome). Links are below:

Family Friendly Volunteer Opportunity: Saturday – Set-up Saturday, December 4th First United Presbyterian Church 605 N Webster St, De Pere.

Adults Only Volunteer Opportunity (for confidentiality reasons): – Tuesday, December 7th, Wednesday, December 8th & Thursday, December 9 First United Presbyterian Church 605 N Webster St, De Pere

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