More than 200 kids will enjoy a merrier Christmas thanks to the Best PCS Ever! Holiday Store hosted recently at Coronado’s Graham Memorial Presbyterian Church. Ninety local junior enlisted military families were given the opportunity to sign up and request various items on their children’s Christmas lists and then make an appointment to shop in the fully stocked pop-up store. Families arrived at the transformed Parish Hall and were greeted and assigned to a personal shopper who helped them select multiple toys for each child, all organized by age.
One of the appreciative families told their personal shopper that money was tight, and they were planning on giving their kids I.O.U.s for their presents this year, but being able to shop in the store changed all that. One mom was ecstatic when she mentioned her son was into Spiderman and then found the exact toy he had requested. The volunteers and families all exuded joy, and the event was a reflection of the true meaning of the season.
A wide array of gifts was available from Vtech toys, dolls, remote control cars, Legos, sports balls, family games, Barbies, book sets, art and craft kits, Hot Wheels, gift cards, and so much more, geared for ages ranging from newborns to 18 year olds. Each child was also given a large item like a bike, scooter, skateboard, roller skates, or a walker. The stuffed animal corner was a popular stop, as well as choosing from the game table, stocking stuffer area, book corner, and playdough bin. Parents were then able to take their items to gift wrapping stations in the sanctuary to be wrapped.
As parents shopped and enjoyed cookies, the church also provided childcare where eight volunteers entertained approximately 60 children with crafts and games. This incredible event started 10 years and has grown exponentially each year. Leaders pointed out that it is made possible by the generosity of the community, noting that it is amazing to see how the whole island comes together to support military families.
This incredible project was coordinated by Taylor Smart, Ralph West, Caitlyn Thiss, and Donna Dameron, and pulled off with 56 volunteers who helped at the event. Starting in November, the Coronado Police Department spearheaded placing toy collection bins around the community at a variety of locations including the Police Station, Fire Station, City Hall, Community Center, the Library, and at The Shores. Prior to the event, Police Chief Kaye led a procession of police cars and then helped as they hauled bag after bag of toys into Parish Hall. The residents of The Shores also gave twelve, filled-to-the top, giant boxes of toys and stuffed animals. Bikes and other large items were donated by Holland’s Bicycles, as well as an anonymous donor from the Graham community.
The Best PCS (Permanent Change of Station) Ever! program is an outreach of Graham Memorial Presbyterian Church. Members see this as an opportunity to serve others and have jumped on board to provide ongoing help for junior enlisted military families. A monthly food and diaper distribution, as well as Thanksgiving boxes, and a summer picnic, complete with games and food, are also offered.