By Trevor Busch
Taber’s Shop of Wonders has opened a path to Christmas cheer for local families struggling with escalating financial burdens during the holiday season.
Parallel Church’s MyCityCare opened the doors to its annual Shop of Wonders for this year’s Christmas season last week at 5120 47 Avenue. The shop helps families struggling with financial burdens to acquire gifts for their children.
“So when we have a client that wants to sign up, we have a registration. It’s online. And we also have it on posters throughout the town. And they register online and they get a phone call and we make a personal appointment with them,” said Kelly Fehr, MyCityCare director for Taber. “So they get half an hour in the shop, just the parents, and they get a personal shopper that takes them around the shop to pick up the gifts for the kids. So they get to choose what they get. And then those get wrapped and then parents go home with wrapped presents.”
Fehr says there are no strings attached to the process.
“The qualification process, if you’re going through a hard time or if you feel that you need a little extra help, that’s what we’re here for.”
Shop of Wonders was created with the goal in mind to help families in need during the Christmas holidays with a variety of donated toys families can pick from to provide for their kids for Christmas.
Families struggling financially this Christmas season can register online to experience the Shop of Wonder at https://mycitycare.ca. Shopping is done through appointments.
“For Taber it started in 2019,” said Fehr. “And it started just by the church seeing a need, that some parents were deciding between feeding their children or paying bills rather than getting presents for the kids. And we just didn’t want anybody to have to make that decision, that they could do both. They could have a great Christmas and also get their bills paid.”
Donations and volunteers can get more details at https://mycitycare.ca. Shop of Wonders is partnered with MyCityCare Christmas Hope.
“We’re here Monday through Friday, when the shop is open,” said Fehr. “As for if they wanted to come and check things out…we can set an appointment that they can drop by. It’s not that we don’t encourage drop-bys or drop-ins. But we do want to maintain the dignity of families. So if I know that you’re coming, then that would be great.”
Fehr voiced the impact inflation has had on families this season and the great need for those who have the means to donate toys or volunteer to help in the Shop of Wonders.
“So every single year, we get more and more families and we have more and more families. So last year, we helped 415 kids in Taber and the need just keeps growing. And I really feel that people shouldn’t have to decide between a special Christmas and actually providing groceries or rent for their homes or utility bills, utility bills skyrocketed this year. And parents are just having troubles keeping up and there shouldn’t be that pressure there. And we just want to alleviate that for them and show them that there’s a community here that cares for them and that they are worth it. And yeah, it’s just a lot of fun to be able to provide in this way to them.”
MyCityCare is an organization which helps local families put food on their tables, among other activities. Its focus, says MyCityCare’s website, is “mobilizing an army of volunteers to take action and meet needs in their own backyards. We believe in empowering local individuals to meet needs where they live with dignity to those who are hurting by resourcing them to meet those needs.”
Providing the service means the need for more donations is ever-present, says Fehr.
“So we have, I think it’s now 12 to 14 different donation box drop off areas in town. They collect toys for us. And then once a week we go and collect them out of those bins. People can also drop off toys here when we’re open. We have already served 259 kids and they each got six gifts of different price increments. So the gifts are going out like crazy. So we need them coming in like crazy.”
“So they can either bring a toy directly to us or to one of the drop-offs that we have around town. We also accept monetary donations, and those can be made online. We have a brand new website, mycitycare.ca, and all the information of what we do and is on there.”
The organization says its Shop of Wonders “offers a haven for parents facing financial hardships. . .Shop of Wonders embodies the true spirit of giving and spreads holiday cheer to families during challenging times, ensuring that every child experiences the wonder and delight of Christmas.”
Fehr stressed that Shop of Wonders is non-denominational and not restricted to Parallel Church membership.
“We have a heart to come along and help the community, it’s not about just our church or helping our church. The majority of the clients, I would say 98 per cent of the clients are not from our church. It is a community base, we want to come alongside the community, other organizations and just make our community better.”
Mayor Andrew Prokop echoed this sentiment.
“Doing the math on this, we’re likely going to go over that 415 mark from last year, and have expected that. But like I said, it’s a phenomenal programme, and it’s designed to help the community and area. And as she said, about 98 per cent are non-church related, so it’s welcoming in everybody. It’s simply about helping people and our kids in need within our community, and the team does a phenomenal job doing that. And that’s what it’s all about.”
Prokop says he couldn’t be more supportive of everything Shop of Wonders is doing for the community.
“I’m thrilled with what Parallel Church in MyCityCare are doing. My first exposure to Parallel Church was through Shop of Wonders in 2019. They first invited me to have a look at what it was all about at the time, we didn’t know what was happening. So since then, I believe we’re going up every year helping kids there, last year being the highest. We’re on pace for those much higher rates. We’re running from December 1-28.”
Both Fehr and Prokop gave heartfelt thanks for the generosity of the community and the many who make donations to the program.
“That’s something I’d like to make known as well, is just thank you for the generosity that’s already been given to us. The community has come alongside us so well,” said Fehr.
“I’d like to thank everyone as well,” said Prokop. “I thank our community and area for that extraordinary support. It’s phenomenal what they’re doing to help this programme work. And it’s sad to say in some ways there is that need out there, but that’s what these programmes are designed to help. So we’re thrilled that it’s working all the way around there to benefit our community.”