Janesville75.5°

Wonderland: Event helps youths shop for just quarters

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NEIL W. JOHNSON
December 11, 2011
— Ten-year-old Whitney Skinner of Janesville had all her Christmas shopping done in just 15 minutes Saturday.

She had her aunt, her grandma, her brother and sister, her parents, and even her pet cat taken care of—all for just 25 cents a gift.


Skinner and hundreds of other area youths joined in the Janesville Salvation Army’s first-ever “Santa’s Workshop” gift center.


For several hours Saturday, volunteers transformed the gym at the Salvation Army Community Center at 514 Sutherland Ave., Janesville, into a holiday department store for area youths to shop for gifts for their families.


Actually, it was a wonderland: All in one place, you could get a necktie, a shell necklace, Silly Putty—even a toy John Deere tractor.


The charity event, which was organized by Salvation Army volunteers, allowed children 12 and under to browse a roomful of thousands of youth and adult gifts. All of the items—some new, some “gently used”—were donated.


Children had to pay just a quarter a present, with proceeds going to the Salvation Army. And while each young person had a list of family members to shop for, some didn’t have enough money to pay for all their gifts.


They got theirs free, organizers said.


Salvation Army volunteer Paige Money said the event was only under way a few hours before families of more than 150 young people lined up at the center.


“The need is here. It definitely is,” Money said.


Volunteers had holiday crafts and activity rooms for youths to stay busy while they waited to shop.


They even had “door-busters” at the event; each shopper got a free gift and a book.


Money said organizers were working to bring in more donated gifts Saturday, and were considering keeping the event going a few extra hours so everyone would get the gifts they’d come for.


Event organizer and Salvation Army volunteer Michelle Nimmo said donations came pouring in this fall after the she and another volunteer sent just one email, made a Facebook posting and sent flyers to local schools.


“They brought in gifts by the box load,” Nimmo said.


She said the Salvation Army hopes to turn Santa’s Workshop into an annual event.


Van Jensen, 6, of Janesville was lugging a white garbage bag almost as big as himself. It was full of gifts for his family.


Van was headed for the workshop’s gift-wrapping station, but he opened his bag for a peek at the gifts inside.


His eyes were wide, and he flashed an innocent smile.


“Don’t tell my brother what I got him,” he whispered.



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