The annual shopping trip pairs volunteers with students specifically selected through their teacher or principal with volunteers to help them choose wisely when spending the $100 allotted. Each elementary school was given a different time to come to the mall on Sunday.
Brenda Lawson and the Creating Christmas Memories Foundation Board ensure that the event runs smoothly through partnerships with Kmart, Bradley Square Mall Security and the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office.
Volunteers of various ages make the event “organized choas,” according to volunteer Christy Dasher.
As children were making memories choosing their favorite toys and clothes, the Bentley family was making some memories of their own as volunteers.
“I felt like it was a good opportunity to give back, to give some of our time to the community,” Larry Bentley said.
Bentley was joined by his wife Kim and son Ian.
“We felt like it was important for him to come and be a part of this,” Bentley said.
He said he was pleasantly suprised by the number of volunteers.
“This is awesome that this many people would come out and volunteer,” Bentley noted.
Many of the volunteers come back year after year. Many who help the children shop are from local high schools. School faculty representatives and other community members also keep the event running smoothly.
Dasher has volunteered for the past six years and enjoys seeing the children receive gifts they would not ordinarily receive.
“Seeing the kids, the excited faces when they come in, it’s just rewarding for us to see,” Cendy Hill, who has volunteered for five years, said.
From pairing boys with male volunteers and girls with females to having Spanish-speaking volunteers on hand for students who do not speak English, many subtle details are planned for and worked out ahead of time, according to volunteer Sandra Rowland.
“It’s a well organized machine now,” Dasher said.
Hill said each year the event has gotten better.
“A lot of hard work goes on throughout the year to make this happen,” Dasher said. “Months and months of planning.”
This year siblings were also kept together to allow them to shop as a group.