Christmas store needs donations so struggling families can buy affordable gifts

CHICAGO — For 15 years, the Breakthrough Christmas Store has given struggling families the chance to buy quality Christmas gifts at prices they can afford, but this year they're running short on donations they need to make it happen.

By accepting donations of new, unused items and then selling them at a 90 percent discount, organizers say it provides a moral boost to families in need while also making sure there are presents under the Christmas tree.

"They have their own dignity, they're actually able to use their own money to buy it," Breakthrough's Henry Johnson said.

But this year the store is in jeopardy of being understocked. Donations are running unusually short, and organizers say they've only been able to collect 1,000 of the 5,000 gifts they need by December 13.

"It is all appreciated, and if you can give from your heart… that’s the most amazing thing you can do," Breakthrough's Sheandra Simmons said.

Simmons said she remembers being a kid in the organization’s after-school program, and shopping at the store with her mother and sisters. Now she's on the other side as a Breakthrough employee.

"I’ve been seeing it from every stage, from being a participant to seeing everything come in," Simmons said.

Based on the West Side, the faith-based nonprofit is focused on improving the lives of residents in the East Garfield Park neighborhood. Its Christmas Store is an opportunity for struggling families to buy items like toys, electronics, and even best-selling books they otherwise couldn't afford.

"Five-thousand gifts to 500 families is what we want to do, and that's just a percentage of the East Garfield Park community," Johnson said.

Anyone looking to help support the effort can drop off items at the FamilyPlex at 3219 W. Carroll Ave., or buy items off its Amazon Wishlist by December 13.