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Let children experience joy of giving

While children enjoy receiving gifts, many also enjoy giving gifts. This holiday season several area groups are making this easier for children.

Grace United Methodist Church in Pequot Lakes will host its 10th annual Children’s Shop Day from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 23.

Pine River United Methodist Church has hosted the same event for the past seven years, with this year’s Community Children’s Shopping Day scheduled from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 7.

At the Pequot Lakes church, children up to sixth grade are invited to shop the assortment of $1 gifts for their family members. To reduce families’ wait time, volunteers will use gift bags instead of wrapping, and parents will be encouraged to help their children with all gifts except their own.

Concessions will be available in the fellowship hall and there will be a children’s clothing sale in the main entry.

At the Pine River church, parents and other adults will be treated to hot apple cider and holiday treats while their children get the chance to purchase gifts for them in a separate room.

The event is open to children in pre-kindergarten through sixth grade. All items the children buy cost only $1 and volunteers wrap them for free.

“Our church started it as an outreach to the community. I guess it’s so special for the children because they get to pick out their own gifts with help from volunteers,” said Deb Gearey of the United Methodist Church. “For us it’s very rewarding to see the excitement on all the children’s faces when they leave the church knowing that they have done something themselves.”

Gearey said children get excited while shopping because they can do so without their parents. They buy new or slightly used items and they are all wrapped. Until Christmas, the children are the only ones who know what is inside.

“That’s why we did this. Sometimes it’s hard to shop with your children because then you are always with them to know,” Gearey said.

Church members donated the items on sale.

The funds raised are donated back toward groups and charities that benefit children, including The Warehouse in Pine River and Pine River-Backus School.

Happy Dancing Turtle and Pine River-Backus Community Education are also offering a chance for children to give special gifts for Christmas, partnering for the third year to sponsor Gifts of the Heart, an opportunity for children in grades K-8 to create unique gifts.

“We will have around six crafts for each grade level (K-2, 3-5, 6-8) to make on each of the nights (a total of a dozen or more crafts per child),” said Barb Beck, educational programs and events coordinator for Happy Dancing Turtle. “Adults and high school students will be helping in each room, guiding the children in the making of the crafts, and will have samples and all materials for each craft. There will also be wrapping rooms with adult and high school helpers.”

Gifts will be upcycled from such materials as cereal boxes, coffee filters, pop tabs, bottles, buttons, T-shirts, floppy disks, socks and broken crayons, among many others.

The event will be held two days — from 3-5 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday, Dec. 3 and 5, in the PR-B School commons. There is room for as many as 40 participants each session. Cost is $5 per session or $8 for both sessions.