A ‘general store’ in the spirit of St. Nicholas
New London ― People shopped tables at St. James Episcopal Church Tuesday for items such as toys, clothes, cold medicine, humidifiers and Christmas decorations, none of which came with a price tag.
The church held its first-ever free general store to provide families with necessities and gifts for the holiday season.
Ramona Martez, a single mom and personal care assistant, selected clothes, creams and medicine for she and her children.
“Any help is good because of the inflation,” she said. “Some things are so expensive.”
The Rev. Denise Cabana, priest at St. James since July, said the church had a surplus of items from the non-food giveaways at the Gemma E. Moran United Way Food Center on Broad Street. She said the church’s storage room was filling up when the idea came to do a giveaway in the form of a store and invite those who regularly attend the church’s food pantry on Wednesdays.
“We’re happy to get items out to people and (be) making some difference,” Cabana said. “It’s necessary because people are really struggling. Everything is more expensive and it’s harder to make ends meet.”
Cabana said the church chose Tuesday to open the store because it was St. Nicholas Day. St. Nicholas gave gifts to the poor and is considered as the model for modern-day Santa Claus.
“It’s a good day to make this happen,” she said.
Prior to entering the building, individuals were asked how many adults and children they were shopping for. Within the first hour of the two-hour event, about 132 people had collected items from the general store.
Hildy Zeigler, a volunteer at the event, said people were happy to get the items, which would help with their health, beautify their home and bring joy to the kids.
Cabana said she hopes to hold the event again and will if the opportunity presents itself.
The church also holds a regular “jumbo” shop every Tuesday, Thursday and the first and third Saturday of every month where items are sold for less than five dollars.
Cabana said the proceeds fund outside projects such as hurricane relief in Florida and Puerto Rico.