It is the season of giving and many of us are checking off our Christmas lists, but for some, giving to others is not so easy.
“I’ve got two children. I’ve got two grandchildren,” said Sandra Williamson.
She was shopping for Christmas gifts Wednesday, but not in any ordinary store.
“I have no income at this time. I’m living under KCDC housing. I’m under the free rent, and I don’t have the money to go out and get my children and my grandchildren Christmas gifts,” she said.
She was at the Volunteer Ministry Center Holiday Store. No money is ever exchanged there.
“People that need help, they come in and they sign up for community service. They do four hours of community service. They’re given 300 points,” said Store Manager Kay England.
The price tags are not dollars, but points. You spend a few hours giving back, and you get back something in return.
“Volunteering gives you the opportunity to contribute something back to a community to gain something for your family. It’s not just a handout. It’s not going to keep you in that place of being down,” Williamson said.
Williamson has a long history with VMC. They picked her up when she had fallen on hard times.
“I was homeless. I was homeless for about two years,” she said. “The VMC helped me with so many things to get me back up on my feet where I needed to be.”
The VMC Holiday Store store continues that good will even for the people working it.
“I was out of work and I was the first person to sign up for assistance through the program,” England said. “This is my 25th year, and it’s been wonderful.”
As they pick out the perfect gifts for loved ones, they know the work they put in to being there comes around full circle.
“People in their hearts and what they’re doing here truly tells me what the meaning of Christmas really is,” Williamson said.
VMC also takes donations to stock the store. The items they most need are children’s toys and craft sets, baby clothes and toys, sporting goods, cosmetics, and small tool kits.
Any donations can be dropped off at VMC in Knoxville at 511 N. Broadway during normal office hours.