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 A young boy holds a red bucket full of presents for his family that he purchased at the gift shopA holiday tradition at many of our elementary schools are in-school “gift shops,” which provide scholars with the opportunity to obtain items at low – or in some cases no cost – in order to make Christmas brighter for those on their gift lists.

At Bessemer Academy, items purchased and donated by school staff allowed the Bobcats to secure, at no charge, “an item for someone you love,” in the words of Principal Angela Garcia.

At other schools like Haaff, Sunset Park, Goodnight and Franklin, Parent Teacher Organizations and volunteers purchased new items and then priced them at a steep discount in order for the little ones to get the most holiday bang out from their buck.

“It’s a fundraiser that really doesn’t raise much funds,” mused one Sunset Park parent.

At Park View Elementary, Santa’s Segunda has been an anticipated tradition since the mid-1990s.

Sandy Christensen, a physical education teacher, started the first version of the Segunda, which presents to Cubs a collection of like-new and slightly used items, from bicycles to toys to beauty accessories, donated by staff and community members.

“The excitement in our scholars’ eyes is always evident as they excitedly move around the gym, checking for gifts for those on their list,” said Principal Floyd Gallegos. “Our staff all did a wonderful job of listening to my phrase I use quite often: ‘many hands make light work.’”

Thanks to the benevolence of “Santa” in the form of financial contributions from staff, Cubs whose generosity exceeded their available funds were able to check off every name on their gift list.

“To this day, this is one of our biggest fundraisers, where every penny is spent on our scholars,” Principal Gallegos said.

With volunteers serving as shopping assistants, clerks and gift wrappers, these fun and colorful shopping excursions provide a valuable lesson in budgeting and computation. Above all, however, children learn the importance of selflessness and the joy that comes with thinking of, and giving to, others.

Without fail, each and every little one who made his or her way through the gift shops did so with others on their mind. 

From parents to siblings to classmates to pets, funds were exclusively earmarked for those close to the little shoppers’ hearts. 

On the rare occasion that a dollar or two remained once the shopping was done, only then did the scholar look for a small item for him or herself.