Cornerstone Christmas Store Blesses Families

December 14, 2016

More than 120 local families were this weekend blessed by a Christmas Store, offering them holiday goods, food items and gifts for a tiny fraction of the normal cost.

The Cornerstone Foundation held its fifth annual event, aimed at helping struggling families have a brighter Christmas season.

As festive music played in the background, families were invited to browse and shop for what they wanted at 90 percent discount of what they would normally pay in stores.

Volunteers of all ages passed out cookies and hot drinks, stacked shelves, wrapped presents and carried shopping bags to cars to ensure the event ran smoothly.

One 41-year-old single father of two described it as a “great atmosphere” and “something nice and festive”.

He got a phone call just last week inviting him to the Christmas store, after someone in the community nominated him.

“It was great to get that call and good news,” he said. “As a single parent this definitely helps with the groceries and with the cost of gifts. I have a five-year-old son and a teenage daughter, so that means finances and time are both a little tight.

“Like most single parents, you tend to juggle more than one job and there are only so many hours in the day. Sometimes you find you don’t have enough hours to get what you want done.

Cornerstone Christmas Store Bermuda Dec 13 2016

“Time is my biggest challenge and usually when the kids knock off from school I’m still working. I work all over the island as a landscaper so it’s challenging picking them up from school,” he added.

“You don’t always have the time to spend with them doing family stuff – a lot of weekends I work. I have them with me on jobs and sometimes they get a little antsy.”

He said he spends a lot of time thinking about the future and the next stage of life for his kids.

“They are both going through different stages – sometimes I’m prepared and sometimes I’m not,” he explained.

If ever in a position, he said he would like to contribute to a community project like this.

“Everyone needs help every once in a while. Sometimes in life, you just need a hand and in my opinion it’s always good to give back,” he said.

Mary Samuels, Vice President of Cornerstone Foundation, said she was grateful for 80 volunteers, including many teenagers, and numerous corporate and community sponsors who made the event possible this weekend.

“It always amazes me to see how this experience encourages not only our shoppers but all of our volunteers.

“Our goal is not only to offer great deals but to create an atmosphere where every single person feels valuable and loved. The daily struggle of trying to make ends meet can be depressing and often paralyzing and in a small way through the store we want to say, don’t give up, keep going!

“Shoppers have choices according to their budget and their preferences. They are hardworking people who today found some great deals. Who doesn’t like that! And they also feel good that the money they spent in the store goes to the Berkeley and CBA lunch programs.”

In addition to 120 families who were invited to take part, another 20 to 25 families will today have access to any remaining items.

“We always make sure we have enough for about 150 families and have about 125 that come in with invitations and always have the shelves stocked from the 1st shopper to the last.

Another 38-year-old mother was nominated by a colleague at work who saw her struggling.

“My co-worker wanted me to do this to help me out a little bit,” she said. “I’m a single parent. I have a job, but it’s not enough money for the household.

“It’s expensive in Bermuda taking care of a child by yourself and paying the bills, so every little bit helps.”

Times have gotten so bad the mother-of-one said she doesn’t use her credit or debit cards at store checkouts anymore. “I know there’s nothing in there,” she said.

“Before you get paid you do a budget, but after paying all your bills the money is all gone. If anything else comes up you wonder how you’re going to feed your child or keep the lights on this month.

“It’s hard just basic living is hard if you aren’t making enough. It’s stressful and can put you in a depressed mood.”

She said the Christmas Store had lifted her spirits this year. In addition to leaving with gifts, toiletries and non-perishable food items, she also won a raffle for a $100 MarketPlace gift certificate.

“I’m usually very grouchy at this time of year, but I feel blessed. I can feed my daughter and have stuff in the house and feel happy. This is a really good thing they’re doing.”

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