- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
It started four years ago with my sister, Brooke, who lives in South Carolina. She noticed a huge need in her area of low income families that needed help with Christmas. Her idea of a “Christmas Boutique” was born. The thought was to set up a toy store and allow the parents to come in and shop for their children for free. Parents were allowed to choose three toys per child and, again, completely without cost.
Two years later, I was working at Barstow Elementary School as the school nurse. Donna House (principal), Natalie Washington (counselor) and I were talking mid-October about families that could use our help for Christmas. We thought the staff at the school could realistically provide for three families, but we had 30 families on our list. I was extremely upset and asked, “What about the other 27 families — do they just have nothing for Christmas?” Mrs. House and Mrs. Washington both wanted to do more, but admitted that “there is only so much we can do.” At that moment, I decided to start the Christmas Boutique at Barstow. Kristen Johnson, pre-K teacher, agreed to organize the boutique with me. Mrs. House smiled and told me to “keep it simple.” Her thoughts were to try to provide for an additional 10 to 12 families with the boutique. I simply winked at her and told her I “had a vision and God would provide.” That was about 9:30 a.m.. At 9:45 a.m., a representative from Mattel was driving by and stopped at Barstow with two boxes of brand new Lightening McQueen and Mater Matchbox cars (from the movie “Cars 2”). The representative stopped in the front office, stated that the company had made too many of these toys and asked if Barstow could possible use them. I simply smiled, told him thank you and knew we were on our way.
In early November, the first fliers went home to the Barstow community asking for donations of new and gently used toys. In poured hundreds of toys, stocking stuffers, stuffed animals, movies and books. The generosity was overwhelming. Each parent was allowed to take three toys per child, plus all the stocking stuffers, books and movies they could use. Every family also received at least one roll of wrapping paper. In 2011, Barstow’s Christmas Boutique provided Christmas for 29 families representing 120 children.
After the success of the first year, we wanted to make 2012 even better and touch more families. This year, the event was Dec. 7. More than 30 volunteers and staff set up the boutique from 3 to 6 p.m. and the families came and shopped from 7 until 9 p.m. Child care was provided for the children by high school seniors while parents rested in the cafeteria with coffee, hot chocolate, cookies and a movie. Each family received a “personal shopper” to help them find the perfect toys for their children, and also help them carry their items. After the toys were found, they headed over to the wrapping paper section and received rolls of wrapping paper and a personalized stocking for their children provided by the Children’s Aide, a local ministry helping children. At this point, their personal shopper would escort them to their car and drop off the toys, and then the families would be allowed to shop at “Buster’s Clothing Store” to find gently used clothes.
More than 750 toys were donated this year from the community. Most of these toys were new. The Children’s Aide discovered what Barstow was doing and partnered with us this year. The stockings it provided were based on age and gender so they were personalized for each child. We had one family donate 40 brand new sleds. We had more than 40 different brand new balls, including basketballs, soccer balls, volley balls and footballs. At the end of the event, the 2012 Barstow Christmas Boutique provided Christmas for 50 families representing 144 children.
I recently resigned from my position as the school nurse at Barstow Elementary to teach nursing at the Calvert Career and Technology Academy, but I couldn’t let the boutique go. It is such an amazing event and truly blesses the children and families at the school. I have already been asked if I will do it again next year. My answer is simple: “If there is a need, I will do it.” Unfortunately, there is always a need. Barstow’s Christmas Boutique is quickly becoming a part of the culture at Barstow. It is the ultimate example of giving back and remembering the true meaning of Christmas.
Jenny Rachic, Prince Frederick
The writer is a registered nurse and Academy of Health Professions clinical instructor at the Calvert Career and Technology Academy.