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Aurora churches, schools join  efforts for discount toy gift marts

More than 1600 donated gifts have been sorted packed
by volunteers Ginger Creek Community Church Aurorduring the
organization's first annual gift mart

More than 1,600 donated gifts have been sorted and packed by volunteers at Ginger Creek Community Church in Aurora during the organization's first annual gift mart toy drive. The gifts will be sold to parents of O'Donnell Elementary School children on Saturday for $2 a piece. The money raised will be given back to the school to sponsor field trips and other student activities.

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Updated: January 15, 2013 11:24AM

AURORA — If there was ever a true win-win situation, this weekend’s holiday gift mart at O’Donnell Elementary School in Aurora is it.

More than 1,600 brand-new toys have been donated to the effort, which will allow low-income families the opportunity to purchase toys at just $2 a piece. Even better, the money collected will go straight back to the school.

Every family at the school will have the opportunity to shop for gifts, which range in value from $6 to $20. The gift mart, hosted by Ginger Creek Community Church, is part of an outreach partnership between the church and the school.

“We’ve really been looking at trying to move beyond just a charity response to the community, but to restore dignity as well,” said Pastor Zach Montroy.

Montroy said it isn’t often that fathers show up at charity events willing to accept hand-outs. The gift mart allows them the opportunity to hand-select a gift for their child, pay for it, and know that the money is going to a great cause — their little one’s education.

“This is a great way for us to develop relationships with the families in the community, as well,” Montroy said.

Ginger Creek is hosting its first gift mart, but is following in the foot steps of Community Christian Church, which will host efforts at Brady and Bardwell elementary schools on Saturday as well. Community Christian has been putting on the gift drives for a decade and is expected to sell more than 13,000 toys to families of four East Aurora schools this season.

“There are a group of churches and business that have a love for the East Aurora area, and want to continue to support that,” said volunteer Kathy Fuhrman, who, along with Tere Turner, helped organize the Ginger Creek event.

With 12 carts in tow, and more than $4,000 in cash donations to burn, Fuhrman and Turner hit a local Walmart recently to load up on toys. In addition, drives held at local businesses and the church brought in hundreds of additional gifts that will be for sale.

“The reality of trying to collect 1,500 toys hit me (and I was nervous),” said Turner, noting last year’s toy drive took in about 300 gifts. “But I thought, ‘God’s going to make this happen.’”

And, she said, He certainly has. Turner and Fuhrman exceeded their expectations, in not only gifts, but volunteers.

Hundreds of students, teachers and church members will come together on Saturday to help set up, sell and wrap the gifts.

“I cant wait to hand that money over (to the school)” Montroy said. “I’m really excited for that.”

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