Last month, The International Center staff volunteered with The Sharing Place to staff their annual Christmas Store. The Sharing Place is an outreach program of The Foundation for Lutheran Child and Family Services and helped provide a holiday experience for nearly 200 local families.

Each year the Foundation collects new, unwrapped toys, games, books, household items and more to stock a "store" at Gethsemane Lutheran Church. Families in need are referred by social workers in Marion and surrounding counties to "shop" for Christmas presents at no cost. Each family receives a certain number of "points" per child to spend at the store.

Susan Ryan, the Event Coordinator for The Christmas Store, noted how the experience of holiday shopping is often overlooked, but for the families participating, the ability to pick and choose gifts for their family is a luxury.

Additional to each child receiving presents, each family receives a board game, a household appliance and a gift card for groceries.

"The Christmas Store is one of the only holiday outreach program in Marion county which focuses on the entire family," said Ryan, "It is a truly unique, one-stop shop for Christmas."

As a staff, The International Center collected items for distribution at The Christmas Store, and helped check clients in, assist shoppers, and stock shelves.

International Center office manager Tyler Smoot recalled, "The Christmas Store was a very rewarding and heart-warming experience...I was glad to be part of the process."