Tulsa Christmas Store hopes to provide for needy kids
BY MICHAEL OVERALL World Staff Writer
Saturday, November 17, 2012
11/17/12 at 5:57 AM
Donations come by the truckload and thousands of financially strapped parents line up every year to "shop" for free at the original Christmas Store in Arlington, Texas.
Bringing the idea to Tulsa, LaTonya Clardy seems only slightly less ambitious.
"We have a lot of kids right here in our own city who don't have much to look forward to this Christmas," she says. "We can do something for them."
Clardy pitched the idea to the Reed Foundation, which has a boxing gym in north Tulsa, where coach Keith Reed has a reputation for taking troubled youths and turning them into good athletes.
More importantly, he also shapes them into mature, responsible people.
"We're not going to let any of our kids go without Christmas," Reed told Clardy. "Not this year. Not anymore."
Like the original program in Texas, Clardy and Reed will open a Christmas Store, complete with shelves and displays, where eligible families can go shopping for holiday gifts.
"Like Wal-Mart," she says, "Except free."
Nobody, especially a child, wants to find just one gift under the tree. So Clardy hopes to provide at least three presents per kid.
But to reach her goal of helping 500 children, she'll need 1,500 gifts.
"So we better get started collecting them," she says.
The toy drive will kick off Saturday with a gospel concert where at least one unwrapped gift will be part of the admission price.
But toy drive doesn't entirely describe what Clardy has in mind, considering that she wants to provide Christmas cheer for everyone under 18.
"Teenage kids really get left out a lot of the time," she says. "But that's the age where we need to be reaching out to them more than ever and keeping them on the right path."
Gifts could include coats, jeans, games, books - even socks and underwear.
"Some kids never get new socks," Clardy explains. "You'd be amazed at how much a little thing like that can mean to some families."
The Tulsa Christmas Store will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 12-14 at Morning Star Fellowship Hall, 1014 E. Pine St.
But "shoppers" will need to pre-register Dec. 7 and 8 at Morning Star, where parents must show proof of address in one of four Tulsa ZIP codes: 74106, 74126, 74115 or 74127.
"This is just the first year," Clardy says. "Hopefully, we'll keep getting bigger and bigger and help more and more families."
Eventually, she says, it might even rival the effort in Arlington, where she got the idea while living in Texas for a few years before returning to Tulsa.
"It works there," she says. "And it's going to work here."
Christmas Store benefit concert
5 p.m. Saturday
Morning Star Baptist Church, 1014 E. Pine St.
Admission: $5 in advance, $10 at the door, plus one unwrapped gift
Performers include Church of the Gospel, Monika Jones, Bertheophilus Bailey and Wayne Deshield.
For more information, or to arrange a donation, call 918-584-9947.
Original Print Headline: Christmas Store aims to serve needy kids
Michael Overall 918-581-8383
LaTonya Clardy is working with the Reed Foundation boxing gym to open a Christmas Store where needy families can "shop" for free. MICHAEL WYKE/Tulsa World