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Michael Brandy, Deseret News
Families shop for Christmas gifts for their children at Guadalupe Schools' Christmas Store. Toys, books, clothing and food were donated.

SALT LAKE CITY — Though the Christmas Store at the Guadalupe School was filled with gifts for children Saturday, the store itself was created to empower their parents.

For the past 16 years, the Guadalupe School has offered a "Christmas Store" for underprivileged families in the community to give parents an opportunity to be involved in selecting gifts for their children.

"While (the parents) were extremely grateful for gifts donated to their families, they didn't ever have a chance to be a part of their children's Christmas," said Vicki Mori, executive director of the Guadalupe School.

Each year, members of the community donate newly purchased gift items to the Christmas Store. Parents of Guadalupe School children then receive four-point vouchers for each child they are shopping for. Gift items are labeled with point values of one to four, allowing parents to make selections that they feel each child will enjoy the most. While some parents may purchase four small items for a child, others may choose one big item that "costs" four points.

"Any time that you can empower a parent and allow them to do things for their children, it's important," Mori said. "Gifts donated to families are wonderful, but this (experience) allows parents to make specific choices for their children."

The Guadalupe School is a community-learning center, with the mission of teaching economically disadvantaged children and non-English-speaking adults skills they need to live productive lives.

This year 96 families participated in the Christmas Store shopping event, with 700 individual toys either donated through the community or purchased by the Guadalupe Schools using donated money for the event.

Gifts ranging from brand-new dolls, board games and stuffed animals to makeup, jewelry, curling irons and CDs filled tables and rooms in the school.

And one important rule: a volunteer wraps each present selected before it is taken home. "The children don't get to see it until Christmas morning," Mori said.

Twenty to 25 volunteers participated, helping wrap presents and assist shopping parents.

"(The parents) are so excited that they can pick something special for their child," said Kristine Rasmussen, a member of the Guadalupe School board. Rasmussen, who was stationed in a room full of new toys for children up to 5 years old, found joy in seeing parents carefully selecting toys.

"Is there anyone who doesn't like to get a gift? Unwrapping one and wondering what it is?" Mori said. She believes that the Christmas store helps bring magic into many homes on Christmas morning and allows parents to experience the joy and excitement with their children more fully.

To volunteer or donate to the Christmas Store or Guadalupe Schools call Angie Roberts, 801-531-6100.

e-mail: hloftus@desnews.com