Dec. 23—Tiffany Seiber knows from personal experience the value of a Christmas gift for a child, which is why the Women's Enrichment Center's annual Christmas shop for families "is my favorite part of the year."
"My grandmother raised seven of us, (so) we didn't have anything, and all I got for Christmas" were a couple of basic items, but "I was thankful for that," said Seiber, the Women's Enrichment Center's client care coordinator. "It was everything to me, (so) it touches me so much to see these kids get something, and that is what we're here for."
The Christmas shop "helps a lot, (especially) for mothers struggling financially," said Nathalee Lopez-Bravo, who brought her 8-month-old, Bibiana Lopez, to the center for shopping last week. Parents can "get gifts for their kids to enjoy Christmas and have 'that moment' when they open up their gifts."
The center even wraps presents for families so "their child gets to unwrap a gift instead of pulling it out of a bag," said Seiber, who organized the Christmas shop. "A lot of parents don't have the opportunity to wrap," and while this year was the first time the center offered wrapping at the Christmas shop, it was so popular they had to expand from one wrapping station to two, so "I think this is here to stay."
For the past few years, the center has offered either a holiday meal or shopping for families, this year providing presents for nearly 60 families and more than 90 children, said Renee Rector, the center's executive director. They also had personal gifts for pregnant mothers awaiting their first child.
And while the center focuses on babies and young children, there were gifts for older children, too, Seiber said.
"We didn't leave a child out."
While parents shopped Dec. 14-15, their children were able to enjoy snacks, watch holiday movies and create Christmas ornaments, Seiber said. Families were able to take home additional ornament kits to craft together.
The Christmas shop "is awesome," said Makaesha McKenzie, who brought her 6-month-old, Makia, with her Dec. 15. "I told a bunch of people about it."
It "helps a lot," but an outreach effort like the Christmas shop isn't a surprise due to the giving nature of those who work at the center, said Brenda Mendoza, who picked up presents for her family, including 2-year-old son Jose, Dec. 15. "They're all nice (here)."
The center offers pregnancy testing and consultation, as well as parenting classes for men and women before and after pregnancy, all free and confidential, Rector said. The center has a bilingual staff member dedicated to helping Spanish-speaking clients, and more information about the center — including how to donate to the 501(c)(3) nonprofit — can be found online at https://www.wecnorthga.org/ or https://www.facebook.com/WECNorthGA/, as well as by calling (706) 278-1050.
Those at the center are "a big help to a lot of single mothers out there, but any parent can have a rough patch, and they are always here to help," said Lopez-Bravo, who has attended classes at the center since she became pregnant. "Having kids and raising them, it really does take a village."
The "abundance" of presents for the Christmas shop delighted Seiber, who noted "everything is donated," and from several sources, including from Christian Heritage School middle-school students and parents to a local belly dancing group. The latter provided not only purses but presents inside the purses, ranging from toiletries like shampoo and hairspray to gift cards to salons and spas.
The Blue Sun Fusion Belly Dance group donated more than "50 gifts for our moms," said Leah Spier, the center's marketing and volunteer coordinator.
Christian Heritage School's students in grades seven and eight, with their families, donated the majority of toys for the shop, with parent Alissa Taylor organizing the effort and teacher Tyler Watkins collecting the toys.
"I always tell people 'If you don't believe in humanity, come spend a day in our job, because you will see the kindness,'" Seiber said. "It's definitely an eye-opener."