Ensuring every child finds gifts under the tree on Christmas morning is a goal of the Common Ground Free Store Ministries' annual Miracle on William Street, set from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 1, at William Street United Methodist Church, 28 W. William St. in Delaware.
Common Ground volunteer manager Jill Ignaszewski said the event can accommodate up to 165 families. Adults can select gifts for children from newborns to age 18, and children can select gifts for two adults in the household.
As its name implies, everything at the store's year-round location at 193 E Central Ave. is free, and the same applies for Miracle on William Street.
"A lot of people are right there on the edge. They're working but struggling to make ends meet," said Common Ground Executive Director Sharon Griner.
"Insurance deductibles and medical costs are so high that even middle-class families are having trouble," she said. "Rent is very high in Delaware County. It can be hard for two people who are working to afford their housing. It's a problem we see here a lot."
The free store is open four days a week, and those who visit receive a meal and can choose from available clothing, toiletries and household items, all at no charge.
Unlike assistance connected to government agencies, the store has no wage requirements for those seeking help, Griner said.
The aid the free store provides, she said, can help families "fill the car with gas, pay rent and pay medical bills."
In addition to providing Christmas gifts, Miracle on William Street allows children to have their photo taken with Santa at his workshop, and a waiting room for families will include live music, games, crafts and refreshments, Ignaszewski said.
Adults and children will be given time slots for gift selection, and the event's roughly 85 volunteers will include those accompanying children as they select gifts, she said.
A gift-wrapping station will be available, or adults can take home wrapping paper, she added.
"Everyone is so appreciative and grateful," Ignaszewski said.
"We get hugs, tears of joy. The love pours out from them. We get repeated thanks for giving kids a wonderful Christmas."
"We are delighted to host Common Ground's Miracle on William Street," said the Rev. Julie Carmean, the church's pastor. "We have partnered with Common Ground since the store began. We have a common mission: sharing God's love with our neighbors, offering all unconditional acceptance and compassionate care.
"Miracle on William Street is a favorite event. After all, what better way to celebrate the birth of Jesus than by opening doors and hearts to help others? When a child comes through the door and finds the perfect gift for Mom or Dad and they don't have to worry whether they can afford it? When a parent's tears of stress and worry become tears of relief and joy? That's love made visible."
Ignaszewski said support for Miracle on William Street pours in from across the community without regard to religious or political affiliation.
The event is supported by local businesses, churches, Scouting groups, high school sports teams and other organizations, many of which conduct toy drives, she said.
Donations of toys new in the box still are being accepted.
Gifts for adults also are being accepted. Ignaszewski said they might range from wristlet purses for women to small tools for men.
"We're looking for stuff that's exciting to open on Christmas morning," she said.
Donations can be dropped off at the free store from 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday, Nov. 27 and 29, and 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 28.
Donations also will be accepted at William Street UMC from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 30, as volunteers are setting up the event. About 20 volunteers will be at the church for both advance preparations and cleanup after the event, Ignaszewski said.
The store's regular hours are 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesdays and Saturdays.
"The community is very generous with donations," Griner said, "but there always is a need. We often run short of shoes, toiletries and household goods."
For more on the Common Ground Free Store, visit commongroundfreestore.org.