December 13, 1999By Drew Houff
For more than 150 area youngsters, Christmas 1999 will be a bright one because of shopping sprees Saturday at Winchester area businesses.
The Winchester-Frederick County Jaycees held its annual Christmas shopping spree for children, who visited area stores with $40 to make purchases, then returned to Braddock Street United Methodist Church for lunch and a visit with Santa.
The Jaycees assisted 74 children whose names were provided to the Jaycees by the Winchester and the Frederick departments of social services.
Christmas cheer also was the mantra for the nine children who participated in the Sheetz Family Christmas, which included a shopping spree at Kmart and lunch in the meeting hall of the Shawnee Volunteer Fire and Rescue Company.
The Salvation Army provided the names of the children, who were given about $100 each through regional Sheetz Inc. stores that had been collecting donations all year.
Bob Campbell, the local district manager of Sheetz, said the employees get as much a thrill out of taking the children shopping as the youngsters do buying the toys, bicycles, and clothes.
“The employees volunteer to take these kids shopping. All of the kids are asked to have a wish list to help the volunteers on the shopping spree.”
Sheetz has held the shopping sprees for almost 10 years, Campbell said.
“As for the employees, all the work they do year-round — on days like today they get to see the end result: a day that will make a difference in that child’s life,” he said. “They know it’s going to be a day they are going to remember.”
Campbell also lauded Sheetz customers who contribute funds for the effort, and Shawnee Volunteer Fire and Rescue Company for donating its fire hall on Winchester’s Roosevelt Boulevard for the children to enjoy cookies and fellowship.
Some of the children were brought by bus to Winchester, representing Sheetz stores in Woodstock and Mount Jackson.
“We don’t want to exploit these children at all, so we don’t take photos for the media or in our videos,” Campbell said. He explained children of employees are used as actors in the company videos of the day.
In the Jaycees’ event, children were matched with volunteers, who then took the youngsters to various stores, including Wal-Mart, Toys ‘R’ Us, and various stores in Apple Blossom Mall.
Beth Riddick, chairman of the Jaycees’ effort, said the money used to take the children shopping comes from donations and from the organization’s Best Ribs in the Valley contest.
Riddick even got the children quite excited Saturday afternoon when she told them to quickly expect Santa’s early visit. She even assisted the Santa in helping give out a few gifts to the youngsters.
Winchester-Frederick County Jaycees President Janice Vedeler said the shopping spree is not the end of the Jaycees’ effort. Presents also were sent home Saturday to 23 children, and another 17 will receive some items before the holiday.
She said she contacts each family, via telephone or through a personal visit, to get some feel for what the children want and can have. Some parents help their children prepare lists, but some simply let their children buy whatever they want.
DaShawn, a 10-year-old, said he shopped at Apple Blossom Mall, but was told by his adult chaperone not to purchase several items he fancied, including a weightlifting bar and a South Park T-shirt. Instead, he got a purple light bulb, a dart board, and a belt.
David, a 6-year-old who shopped at Wal-Mart, said he was able to pick up a miniature wrestling ring that talks and a toy snake.
Another 6-year-old, Shavon, said he found a Furby at KB Toys in Apple Blossom Mall that suited him fine. He admitted that the mall did have numerous customers who, like him, were trying to make purchases for Christmas.
Shantel, 4, said she found things she liked, including a Barney guitar and a balloon.
Nikki, a 6-year-old, shyly admitted she bought a doll.
Jaycee member Stacey Jenkins, who took Nikki and her two sisters shopping at Toys ‘R’ Us, said everyone had a good time.
“I have three kids of my own, and this was a reminder of what it was like when they were that age.”