In 2003, Community Christian Church began investing in East Aurora, Illinois, a neighborhood separated geographically by seven miles but a world away in terms of culture, financial resources and opportunities. Quickly the ministry of Community 4:12 was born with the goal of uniting people across cultural, racial and economic divides to learn, grow and better reflect the heart of Jesus. Early on, the primary investment was in the local schools.

Giftmart rooted at a conference in Atlanta attended by Kirsten Strand, Director of Community 4:12. In one of the sessions, a woman described her experience of giving a family gifts at Christmas-time. She detailed how the father quietly snuck out of the room while his children screamed with glee and his wife politely watched. Hearing that story, Kirsten knew she didn’t ever want to be the source of embarrassment and shame for hard-working parents. Later in the year, when the Principal of Brady Elementary School approached Kirsten to consider providing the families of the school with Christmas gifts, she shared the gift-giving story, her desire to value dignity, and the “Christmas Store” philosophy that had been implemented in another community. The model of holding a single-day giftmart event in school was new, but the idea of safeguarding dignity by providing an opportunity for parents to choose and purchase toys for their children was something they both were eager to implement.

The first giftmart in December of 2003 served 750 parents and students at Brady Elementary School. Community Christian Church provided more than 100 volunteers and donated 1,200 new toys to stock the shelves. Partnering together, the two communities not only put toys under the tree but also invested $820 into Brady Elementary School.

Since 2003, Community 4:12 has expanded its giftmart program. It currently operates four giftmart events, serving the families of the 5,000 students at their eight partner schools. In a decade, more than 100,000 new toys have been collected, resulting in the investment of over $150,000 in local schools.

Do you want to host a giftmart in your community?

Giftmart is a great platform to engage your church or organization to bring hope and change to needy communities. We want to support you through this journey.

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