Church Christmas market helps parents put presents under tree

Dec. 14, 2013 @ 05:07 PM

Robin Davis picked up a puzzle and examined a soccer ball Saturday, looking for Christmas gifts for her big Durham family.

Duke Memorial United Methodist Church opened its doors that morning to parents looking for presents to put under the tree. The church’s second annual Christmas Market wasn’t a giveaway, but a store, where toys were sold at extremely reduced prices.

A bike sold for $8. A Superman action figure was selling for $1.

When the doors opened at 10 a.m., hundreds of people filtered in, waiting for their turn to shop.

Local agencies referred families to the Christmas Market as well as collected toys, and in return, the money raised goes back into those agencies. Habitat for Humanity, Interfaith Hospitality Network, Urban Ministries of Durham, Local Access to Coordinated Healthcare (LATCH) and the Durham Exchange Family Center all participated.

This year, the church gave out 350 passes, helping twice as many shoppers as last year’s numbers.

The Rev. Reynolds Chapman, minister of Adult Discipleship and Witness at the church, said the market is a way for parents to directly give their children a good Christmas, instead of having to depend on nice strangers to give them toys.

“So far, the loaves and fishes are feeding everyone,” said youth minister Gair McCullough about the morning rush.

She said being part of the Christmas Market is like the Biblical story of Mary and Martha, a tale of two sisters - At mealtime, Mary listened to Jesus’ words, while Martha was distracted with serving and organizing.

“For me, it’s a chance to connect with Mary and being in the moment,” McCullough said.

In a church multipurpose room, tables were covered in dolls, superhero figurines and puzzles. A NERF football was selling for $3. A pink LEGO house kit was marked for $5.

Jacqueline Jones-Johnson examined action figures that afternoon, looking for a gift for her 5-year-old grandson. Her friend had recommended the market to her.

“It’s just making sure he’s got a good Christmas,” Jones-Johnson said.

Davis said she brought nine children with her on Saturday. She has seven children and  12 grandchildren, which makes it hard to buy gifts for everyone during holidays.

She picked up a Carolina Tar Heels baseball cap, adding it to her pile.

“There’s so many nice things,” she said, browsing the rows of potential gifts. “All right, one more thing...”

When she checked out, her stack of items included mint-green earrings, three puzzles and winter gloves. It totaled $15.

She said her small house at Christmas will be full with 45 people. Family and friends come over, and the children will get up early morning to open their gifts, before they head to church.

Teen volunteers helped Davis put her bags of toys and a bicycle in the back of her green van, running through the rain.

“This is great,” she said. “... I should have waited before I went (regular) shopping.”