CLOVER — Chris Wilson helped an elated 5-year-old girl navigate the aisles of the Family Dollar store in Clover on Dec. 14, choosing Christmas gifts for her siblings and her mom.
Wilson and other adults trailed after young charges as they shopped, asking questions and making suggestions. For many of the children, the chance to buy gifts for others was a new experience.
The children deliberated over sippy cups and socks for young siblings, toy trucks and dolls for older siblings and jewelry, toiletries and other personal items for parents and grandparents.
“It’s wonderful. I think this is what Christmas is about, making someone else happy,” said Wilson, who shopped for her charge with the help of her daughter, Victoria.
The United Methodist Men of Clover’s First United Methodist Church invited 30 children, referred to the group by Clover School District social workers
Member Ben Montgomery started the annual program in 1996, after moving to Clover from Charlotte, where he had launched the program 40 years ago with another Methodist church.
“It all grew out of giving kids a chance to give gifts, to let them experience the joy of giving, instead of receiving,” Montgomery said. “Most of these children have never given a gift.”
Dennis Cameron, president of the men’s group at Clover UMC, said the group invites 30 needy children every year. Clover school social workers help the group identify the children and provide clothing and shoe sizes.
After a breakfast of biscuits, gravy and chocolate milk, each child had a picture taken with Santa. Then each received $30 to purchase gifts for family members at the Family Dollar store. They were accompanied by church members who helped them choose and pay for the gifts, then wrap them later.
Lofton Livingston, 10, helped a 5-year-old boy choose gifts with the help of Lofton’s dad and sister. “He started out really shy,” Lofton said. “Once he got to know us, he is really fun.”
After a visit to the church sanctuary for carols and the story of Jesus’ birth, each child received a package of gifts, including new shoes, a sweatshirt, books, candy and some toys. They also received food for their families.