December 2023

Annual Christmas Store Spreads Joy in West Baltimore

December 18, 2023    |  

Amidst the festive hum of the holiday season, the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) hosted an initiative that embodied the true spirit of giving. The UMB Office of Community Engagement (OCE), in collaboration with the University of Maryland Medical Center, Foundry Church, and UMB Staff Senate, orchestrated the annual Christmas Store on Dec. 15-16 at UMB’s Community Engagement Center (CEC).

The Christmas Store is not your ordinary toy drive. It’s a unique opportunity for families to experience the joy of giving by purchasing donated gifts at significantly reduced costs. Unlike typical holiday drives, UMB’s Christmas Store empowers parents to buy gifts for their loved ones, turning them into the “heroes of Christmas,” according to Lindsay Ferguson, the operations and outreach pastor at Foundry Church.

Shoppers look for gifts at the Christmas Store, which was held Dec. 15-16 at the UMB Community Engagement Center.

Shoppers look for gifts at the Christmas Store, which was held Dec. 15-16 at the UMB Community Engagement Center.

The event serves a dual purpose — providing affordable gifts for families to purchase and directing proceeds to nonprofit organizations that serve West Baltimore.

“We have lots of toys that people have donated that we’re then selling at a fraction of the cost so that everyone can afford to give great gifts for Christmas,” Ferguson said. “We could totally give things away if we wanted — there are tons of organizations that do that. We wanted to make sure we included the entire family and give dignity back to the parents.”

The CEC was transformed into a haven of discounted items where parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents eagerly sought the perfect gift for children. The selection was diverse, from action figures to coloring books, offering something for every child's preference.

Nicole Smith, shopping for her 13-year-old daughter Veronica, shared her enthusiasm. “We got doll babies, we got Minecraft and Super Mario, Barbie and Ken, Barbie accessories — oh my goodness, we will love this stuff,” Smith said.

Smith, whose daughter has autism, emphasized the importance of keeping her daughter engaged with tactile activities, finding the ideal items at the Christmas Store.

Gary Alston, shopping for his nephews, echoed the sentiment. “We got some monster trucks, some Spider-Man action figures, and things of that nature,” Alston said.

The Christmas Store not only offers affordable gifts but also integrates a philanthropic element. The Maryland Book Bank joined the festivities, allowing every shopper to select books for their children and a holiday-themed book for the family at no cost. The generosity extended beyond the local community, with donations pouring in from across the country.

“The first day of the Christmas Store always features the Book Barn, where families can pick out books for free,” said Camille Givens-Patterson, community partnership specialist, OCE. “I think that’s a wonderful gift for someone to give. Reading is fundamental!”

All of the money spent at the Christmas Store goes into a fund dedicated to purchasing gifts for next year’s event. The ripple effect ensures a continuous cycle of generosity that positively impacts the West Baltimore community.

As shoppers reveled in the abundance of discounted items, the true magic of the season unfolded — a community coming together to spread joy, one affordable gift at a time.

Alston commended the event’s organizers and added that “getting gifts and seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces, knowing they had a good Christmas” encapsulates the spirit that makes UMB's Christmas Store a beacon of holiday cheer in West Baltimore.