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Family Services of Tulare County Provides a Helping Hand with the Santa Store

Nov 23, 2016 11:00AM ● By Ben Ralph

Santa's Helpers

December 2016
By Ben Ralph

Thanksgiving is behind us, and some gave thanks by giving back. Whether by donating time or food, Thanksgiving was an opportunity to be grateful for what has been given and to help those who have all too little.

Now the Christmas season is upon us. While Thanksgiving brings to mind the blessings we have when it comes to food, the winter holidays bring anticipation and excitement for many, as they plan ways to surprise the ones they love with goodies and gifts.

Many also exhibit great kindness throughout the holiday season to those who are struggling. Family Services of Tulare County is one such agent of generosity, and their Santa Store adds a particularly empowering twist to the Christmas tradition of giving by formatting the distribution of donations into a store-like shopping experience. By taking a temporary space and setting it up like a retail store, participants can peruse items and select gifts for family members on their own terms and to their own tastes. 

When a person has spent time struggling to provide, struggling to survive, struggling to recover, one of the better gifts to receive is what many take for granted: a sense of agency. “It’s more empowering for them,” says Erica Tootle, the director of development at Family Services.  

And empowerment is the central focus of the Santa Store. Not only can parents browse and find something special for their child, but the kids can find something to give to Mom and Dad, as well. After making their selections, they move on to the wrapping station to give their gift that final Christmas touch. “It becomes a pretty special experience,” noted Tootle. 

What is the need for this year? There are many, but the main categories are gifts for children, gifts for parents and gifts for teenagers. “Teenagers like gift cards,” explains Tootle, as they are a flexible and versatile gift. Being a teen can be especially hard for those who need to focus on things more vital than making the football team or going to prom. And yet, teens can get lost in the mix of adult and child programs. 

The need is real, and the opportunity to meet that need is also real. Tootle described many ways in which people can help, but the most prevalent is giving. Whether gifts, gift cards, cash donations or something as simple as wrapping supplies, it all goes to a good cause. After all, is not the true meaning of Christmas to celebrate the hope that people could live their lives abundantly?

For more information on how to give to the Santa Store or volunteer opportunities: or (559) 741-7310

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