Christmas toy store brightens season for poor children

Mission Waco director Jimmy Dorrell makes a pitch for donations to the ministry's Christmas toy store. (Mission Waco video at

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WACO—Imagine the kind of place every child dreams about—a building filled with toys, goodies and Christmas presents suitable for children of all ages. But no youngsters set foot in the building.

toystore tables400Parents shop for presents at Misson Waco’s Christmas toy store.Instead, they frolic on a playground outside while their parents shop at Mission Waco/Mission World’s Christmas toy store.

Mission Waco/Mission World—a ministry Baptist minister Jimmy Dorrell founded more than two decades ago—sponsored the store two Saturdays in December.

To reach its target audience—primarily low-income families in North Waco—Mission Waco/Mission World marked down the retail-valued prices of donated and store-bought children’s Christmas gifts 80 to 95 percent.

About 1,500 children will receive gifts this Christmas they probably were not expecting, as the nonprofit organization opened up its children’s center to 396 parents who shopped for their children’s Christmas presents.

Items in the store included everything from CD players to bikes, to books, to stuffed animals and jewelry.

For the seventh consecutive year, Harris Creek Baptist Church in Waco donated 14-inch bicycles to the store. Mission Waco/Mission World sold bikes according to wheel size, so a bicycle with 14-inch wheels cost the parents $14. The store also offered parents cookies, hot chocolate and free gift-wrapping to make their shopping experience more enjoyable.

Cherished moments

Joyce Brammer has directed the store 10 years and finds it a spiritually fulfilling experience every year. The gratitude she and store volunteers receive from the parents make it rewarding for everyone involved, she noted. She cherishes moments when teary-eyed parents express thanks for providing them an opportunity to make their child’s Christmas special. Those moments remind her of the reason the store exists.

“It’s because of them we are doing this. So, we should be thanking them,” she said.

toystore participants350About 1,500 children will receive gifts this Christmas they probably were not expecting thanks to the Mission Waco toy store ministry.Brammer needed around 85 volunteers to run the store smoothly. Volunteers walked with parents through the store and helped them determine which gifts to buy. Parents were limited to three gifts per child, to ensure each parent had equal opportunity to supply their children with a reasonable number of presents.

Working at the store often becomes an eye-opening experience for volunteers, many of whom come into the store with little experience in working with the underprivileged, she noted. The store not only helps the poor, but also educates middle-class Christians about poverty and the vision of Mission Waco/Mission World.

Mission Waco/Mission World made available to its program directors any items left over after the Christmas store event to use in their ministries throughout the year.

This year, the nonprofit spent nearly $20,000 in gifts for the store, but it expects to break even, which has been the trend for the store in recent years.

In the 10 years Brammer has directed the store, many things have changed, including the store’s location and size.

Opened for widened participation

Mission Waco/Mission World also implemented a policy change to the store this year. In the past, the toy store was open primarily to parents who already were integrated in of one the organization’s multiple programs. This year the store was opened to the general public—on one condition.

Mission Waco/Mission World partnered with Waco Independent School District and a neighborhood development program to host four Parent Discovery Nights in the weeks leading up to the opening of the store in December. The events offered instruction on parenting skills, such as how to read with and play with a child. Parents were required to attend one of the four sessions to be eligible to shop in the Christmas toy store.

The Parent Discovery Nights provided Mission Waco/Mission World a relationship-building opportunity with parents in the community, Brammer said.

One aspect of the store has not changed. Mission Waco/Mission World remains committed to giving parents the joy of shopping for their children’s Christmas presents.

“The reason we charge for our items to protect and instill the dignity and integrity of a parent shopping for their children, as opposed to standing in line for a giveaway,” Brammer explained. “It works very well for us. No one argues that point with us.”

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