WARRENSBURG — The Christmas Store is in its 49th year of providing a Christmas meal for families in Johnson County.
Last year, the Christmas Store had 362 families sign up and organizers expect more than 400 this year. The cost this year is estimated at $50,000.
Sacred Heart Catholic Church is the lead church for the Christmas Store this year. Marlyne Maple, of Sacred Heart, and Sue Cottrill, of Bethlehem Lutheran Church, are co-chairs.
“I have been involved for quite a few years, but to this extent only for two years,” Maple said.
A number of churches rotate responsibilities for the Christmas Store every year. Maple said there are five or six churches currently participating, but there used to be about 25.
“It’s evolved over the years,” Maple said. “It used to start with people donating actual food goods, like there was a set menu. The schools would help. Retirement groups would help. They would have certain things that they would donate and then there would be a lot of manpower that would be needed to divide all that up.”
Maple said thousands of canned goods needed to be moved every year and the pandemic made it difficult to organize.
“(Cynthia Urbanski) and a couple other steel-willed women said, ‘we aren’t going to let it die this year,’ and they started with the voucher system where they didn’t have to have people donating certain food items and hauling those around and packaging them up and getting them sent out,” Maple said. “The voucher system is just people getting, depending on their family size, the clients get a certain amount of voucher money.”
The voucher system started in 2020.
“It kept the Christmas Store going … our goal is just to help people struggling with food insecurity, help them have a decent holiday Christmas meal,” Maple said.
Maple said the voucher system allows families to celebrate in their own way.
“My idea of a Christmas meal might not be your idea of a Christmas meal,” Maple said.
Vouchers can only be used at Hy-Vee and can only be redeemed for food.
“People can get what they feel like would be a special Christmas meal for them,” Maple said.
The amount of the voucher depends on the number of people in the family.
“We’re very excited about being able to have this mission,” Maple said. “Unfortunately, it’s needed. Especially with our economy nowadays, it’s needed even more than it ever has been before.”
Maple said even some people who used to be able to give are no longer able to because of financial constraints.
Maple said the Christmas Store continues to accept monetary donations. Donations to the Christmas Store are tax deductible as part of The Food Center.
Correspondence and donations for the Christmas Store can be sent to P.O. Box 872, Warrensburg. To donate online, visit foodcenterjoco.com.
For more information, call 66-624-9015.