Free spiritofchristmas shop held at Jimboomba Fri/Sat 20/21 Oct 2017

Dennis opened 9am – 6pm both days and had a wonderful time. He said, “Visitors received a couple of thousand items including books, toys, furniture, electrical appliances, games, lounge cushions, 5 rocking horses, bedding, clothes, DVD’S, kitchen and household goods and electronics. The few things left when I closed were picked up by a lovely Christian group who will send them in a container to Asia to help local people.

“The owner kindly loaned me the shop, which was left very clean. As I don't have a car, people kindly transported the things to the shop and drove me around as necessary. This December, communities all over Australia (and overseas if you let people know) can create the magic of giving and run their own Spirit of Christmas shop to help make sure no children, or adults, go without presents.” 

Tips on running a Spirit of Christmas Shop

These tips arTips on running a Spirit of Christmas Shop are suggestions. Though not written in stone, they’ve consistently worked in my shops. If you find good ideas, please let me know - in writing thanks.

Everything starts with your decision to make it happen. If it excites you to have a shop in your area, just do it. Once you make the decision, don’t be surprised when everything falls into place.

I use love to create the shops with no money, just people's generosity. The videos of previous shops show the great results from doing that.

You’ll be very effective if all tasks are covered, e.g., different helpers in charge of finding a shop, making it look great, insurance, media, rostering (to organise helpers), collecting gifts, cleaning and security. It helps if these coordinators have a list of Things to do. It’s very easy when tasks are known and shared. In past years I did most things myself. That’s not so bright. In 2012 I had a team of over 50 helpers! Wow!

Getting helpers

People welcome the chance to do a shift or two (say 2 or 3 hours a shift). Having two or three helpers always in the shop works well. Write a simple page for helpers, listing what they need to know.  When shop visitors offer to help, ask them to contact whoever is organising your shop roster. 

Getting a shop

Either contact the shop owner personally or via the leasing agent. You could show them your News Release or a simple written plan.

You need space to secure valuables, store and sort gifts coming in (expect hundreds daily) and perhaps a change room. Separate anything not new to be removed nightly. Instead of giving to Op Shops who sell things, why not find a group or church that gives directly to needy people?

Lots of free parking is great. We don’t want anyone booked, do we? I opened my first shop for 3 days. 2010 was 5 days, 2011 was 6 days and 2012 was 8 days. 2016 was 3 days.

Cleaning

Ask cleaners to help, both before you open and after Christmas Eve. Get a handyman in case anything in the shop needs fixing.  Rather than day volunteers doing too much, have a roster for after hour cleaners and creative re-stockers.Getting presents to give away

Getting presents to give away

In any neighbourhood there will be thousands of ‘new' items in people’s homes which they’d love to give as gifts. I've said "If people only brought in last year's unused presents, I could fill a dozen shops."

Collect door to door, at garage and boot sales, community groups, houses and flats, markets, etc. Ask organisations, individuals, groups and clubs to have a ‘collectathon’ of new gifts, especially among work mates. Include services as many people have little money and would love a gift of carpet cleaning, massage, a restaurant meal, mowing etc. I keep these vouchers aside to give to people who really need them. I never pressure anyone and really appreciate any gift, no matter how small.

Letting people know

Get a free email list for all regional radio, TV and papers - in electronic form. 'ourcommunity.com.au'  has free lists of Australian media, state by state. Drop a News Release to all local shops to display in their window. My News Release shows how to write one.

You could get a well known and respected local person to be your Patron.

Living in Honour

My shops always look better when I leave than before. I’ve removed old window signs, painted or touched up cupboards and walls, had floor tiles scrubbed etc. I don’t promise it. I just do it.

Some people see our gifts in our shop window or on TV reports and ask us to hold them, pleading they are really needed for themselves or a friend. I prefer gifts to only be available during open hours and not be held. If they say they have no transport, suggest they have a friend bring them.

With major gifts, like our new kayak, pushbike, huge hamper, exerciser, $300 food voucher etc, rather than the first person taking them, I run a free daily raffle. Anyone can enter on the day. The winner is drawn at 5.45pm. Then I have fun phoning them.

Some shop helpers will ask if they can take gifts or put them away to take later. I believe it’s best to not do this but to honour the spirit of the givers. The benefit to shop helpers is helping, not selecting gifts for themselves or friends. If they’re hard up but have a good heart, find someone to give them a hand or suggest they contact me after Christmas and I’ll help them become more abundant in their lives.

You may think some visitors are greedy. I feel it's not always that simple. It can often be other issues, such as being afraid they wont have enough in their life to survive properly. I’ve thought about this a lot. It feels right to me to just allow people to take whatever they wish, without my judging their behaviour. I prefer to give openly without selection and without limit. That’s how I live my life, following my passion or intuition (inner-teaching). I like to trust that people will take only what they need. Isn’t such unconditional love the true Christmas Spirit?

Security/ Insurance

I’ve had free Public Liability insurance for the past 4 years, usually for $10 million. I ask, and lovely business people help.

Someone mistook our shop music player as a gift, so keep such items away and clearly labelled with a sign. Best if helpers don’t leave any valuables, mobiles, iPads, keys, purses, etc., unsecured even for a minute. This isn’t about lovely folk who give or receive gifts, just the rare opportunistic thief.

It’s handy to have one person to open and secure the shop each day. Have 2 key sets. Perhaps leave one at a nearby 24 hour shop or service station.

The Gopher (Go for this, Go for that)

This is a key team member on stand-by with a larger vehicle to pick up tables, large gifts and do errands. Some people love to give but have no way to deliver. Arrange storage for things until you open.

Recording the Event

Opening a Spirit of Christmas shop is wonderful. Take lots of still or video pictures for a ‘Spirit of Christmas (your area) Story’. I made the 2011 slide show (see Home page) with Apple’s iPhoto and I’m a novice.

Your chattiest person can talk to media. They may also write and issue any News Release and collect copies of any stories in the media.

Every time you sort out a problem, scribble a note for your 'Shop Tips' for the following year. Please email me a copy.

Why not arrange a 'get together' after the shop closes? Early on set a date and place. Then put a note of this in the written information to helpers. Then you won’t need to recontact them. Who knows, out of this might come other community building activitues and new friends.

Have a lovely, hard cover journal visible for visitors to leave comments. Kids love to scribble, so keep it high.

If you have questions that a careful viewing of all pages on this website don’t fully cover, please contact me.

Thanking everyone

When it’s all over, it’s nice to thank everyone by letter so keep a note of names and full contact details for everyone who helps. Gift givers are best thanked at the time.

You’ll have a heartfelt and special Christmas, not about material things, but what Christmas really means; loving each other.

On behalf of all those who would otherwise not have presents to give to their loved ones at Christmas,

Thank you for your kind heart and generosity!