by Lisa Tome
Long before tackling their own Christmas lists, Bryanne Harris, Lori Sample, and Andrea Connolley had an even bigger chore to do.
The trio went shopping for the family members of Cecilton Elementary students. The three women, officers of the school's PTO, work to coordinate the school's annual PTO Holiday Shop. Unlike many schools which rely on internet ordering for Christmas gifts, they are hands on shoppers. The women set out for the shopping trip going to T.J. Maxx, Michael's, and big box stores in search of perfect gift items.
What they bought is then displayed and sold at the school's holiday shop. The shop is not a money maker. Instead, it's a service offered by the PTO so students can buy reasonably-priced (25 cents to $12) gifts for their families at school. It teaches children the joy of giving. Harris explained that the goal is to buy things that they as parents, or their children, would actually want to receive as gifts. They look for popular items such as the movie "Frozen" gifts, sports items, small blankets, socks, nail polish, and more. Ravens and Eagles tree ornaments and bubblegum machines were "hot" items in the shop this year.
Valerie Walmsley, a Paparazzi Jewelry and Accessories representative also sets up shop inside the Santa shop. All her items cost $5 or less.
The PTO volunteers help the children shop and wrap all their items. Sample said that on average, each child has five or six gifts to buy and spends $20-$30.
"Seventy-five percent of them buy things for themselves. They get dollar things for themselves or candy canes," said parent volunteer Dave Santiago. Santiago said that mirrors his own behavior. He confided that he also buys for himself when Christmas shopping.
Kindergarten student Miranda Reynolds was buying a gift for her sister, Emma. "I like to give my family presents," said Reynolds.
Harris said that children buy a lot of gifts for their parents. "These kids take care of their mommies," she said.