Fall 1986 // Volume 24 // Number 3 // Ideas at Work // 3IAW2

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Seasonal Partnership


Mary P. Selk
Extension Home Economist
Logan County Extension
Guthrie, Oklahoma

Consider this way of making the holiday time in your community a special one: start a Christmas Store! In Logan County, Oklahoma, we formed a partnership three years ago, with December becoming one of the busiest months of the year.

It began in 1983 as a cooperative effort between the Minister's Alliance, Action, Red Cross, Aging Services, Human Services, and Extension. We use our various skills and audiences to coordinate the donations to needy families through one event and central location so what low-income families receive is more equally divided. It also allows low-income parents an opportunity to shop for their children's gifts in the store and give them to the children themselves, rather than having a group or benevolent person bring gifts to their door. This helps build the parents' self-esteem, and the children come close to getting what they want for Christmas.

Each organization involved uses its skills to make the project work. Action, Human Services, and Aging Services contact low-income families, and all applications are made through Action. The agencies screen applications for need and living arrangements so that people aren't served who don't need it, and families aren't helped twice because two

Extension and the Ministers' Alliance have access to many groups and organizations. Extension's countywide organization, the Extension Homemakers, spreads the word and its members share this information with other organizations in which they're involved. We therefore concentrate on publicity, securing donations, and running the store.

We, along with Red Cross, also have access to volunteers. Recruitment and training have become a part of Extension's job. Until this year, recipients acted as volunteers, but this caused several problems with the operation of the store. So, the committee decided that no recipients could volunteer.

We publicized the need for volunteers, then held two training sessions just before the store opened. Volunteer roles were described, so volunteers could sign up for the job and shifts they wanted. We professionals had previously handled all the buying, but this year two volunteers were enlisted to be "super shoppers." They did all the toy buying, seemed to enjoy it, and relieved the rest of us to do other jobs.

It works pretty well, but there are some problems. First and foremost, the basic philosophies and the missions of our organizations are entirely different. Also, staff in some organizations have definite hours they work and then they go home. That doesn't reflect Extension's "work until the job is done" philosophy.

On the plus side, we all have different skills, and working together can make a countywide effort like this work. We became involved with many other groups in addition to our traditional audiences. This year, 103 organizations and groups donated to the Christmas Store and 493 families shopped there. This was an increase of 108 families over the previous year, even though the income guidelines were the same as 1984.

The biggest plus of all is that the store fills everyone's needs. The needy pick their own gifts for Christmas and receive help with this added expense, the donors help locally and know their money and donations are being distributed equally among those who need it, and EVERYONE gets to feel good about Christmas.