Text by Kim Campbell, Volunteer/ Board Member

Mom and I have a special relationship with Target. The bright red paint and clean, white light feel like home to us. In recent years, the Glade store has become our special place. The time we spend together there as we shop for at-risk kids in HEB is some of our best. Every year, she calls to make sure that I have all of the shopping dates in my calendar. And every year, we wear ourselves out buying presents for kids we might never meet. Sometimes we spend so much time in Target that people ask us if we work there. Which turns out alright, actually: after a few hours and plenty of trips through the store, we can generally help other people find all the items on their shopping lists!

To maintain students’ privacy, we never know names. Just gender, age, and a number that reflects their school and family. But you can guess at their personalities from their wish list. 009.13.02 wants make-up like Mom’s. 002.05.01 would love some Star Wars LEGOs. 016.52.04 wants a basketball, which he’ll share with little his brother (016.52.02, who seems more interested in Ninja Turtles). It’s sweet to read through those lists, especially when there are siblings together in our stack. That's our chance to really inspire them!

Volunteers and 6 Stones staff help to organize gifts by student number as volunteers shoppers bring them forward.

When two sisters want dolls we will choose different ones for each of them or even a set. If boys want cars we will choose a race track and a car carrier that comes with its own fleet. That way they can interact, play together, and hopefully learn to share. These aren’t just gifts. They’re opportunities.

Those kids have no idea that Mom and Dad are struggling to pay the bills this month. That Christmas dinner is traditionally more than canned soup and crackers. But they know, for sure, that the other kids at school are going to come back from the break with stories of the things they found beneath the tree. That everyone else will have new clothes after the holidays.

It’s our job to keep them from feeling out of place in that holiday rhythm. Mom and I, we’re the Shopping Elves.

The Christmas Spirit in Motion

I didn't truly understand Night of Hope until I attended my first party at Bellaire Elementary. The first thing I remember is the sheer size of the event… an entire school buzzing with activity at seven o’clock at night! Hundreds of families crowding the hallways, the parking lot completely full of cars, Santa’s sleighs (PODS) in the parking lots, and dozens more volunteers dashing to and fro to help the families settle in. I’ve always known that there are people in need in our community — every community, really — but I’d never seen it like this.

And I don’t mean that as a bad thing.

Families pack into their local elementary school for a Night of Hope party in 2016.

This isn’t a sad assembly line where beaten-down parents and their depressed children shuffle forward to get a meager bag of canned beans and dollar store toys. It’s a Party! Every student gets a snack and a craft, and most of them can’t stop talking about how excited they are to share their little creation with Mom and/or Dad. They love singing Christmas carols, too! Meanwhile, in a hidden location that the kids can’t accidentally discover, their parents are picking up gifts with childish excitement.

I’ve been fortunate in my life. I don’t know what it feels like to choose between keeping the lights on or putting something underneath the tree. But I’ve seen the relief of not having to choose. It’s in every set of eyes you meet in that secret room. That’s the joy of being an Elf. You get to watch the magic happen in the workshop! And because I’m also a board member at 6 Stones, I get a front-row seat.

I attended the VIP event last year, and it was amazing to sit around the room and listen to the stories that the families shared and the pure joy and excitement of the volunteers. And all I could think about it that my mom and I were Elves that were willing to walk miles inside of Target and spend a few hours shopping for these precious children. What a Blessing!

At Work in His Work

I joined the board at an interesting time in my life. I was only a few years removed from a divorce and during that journey, I had lost several friends. Sometimes, people just don’t know how to react to these things or don’t want to choose sides. So they disappear. It was a spiritually trying time for me because I chose to leave the church we were attending and go back to the church where I grew up. But My God is sovereign and He used that dry season to shift me into a completely new and better life. God is so faithful to His children!

After my husband and I separated, I felt alone, scared, and relieved all at the same time. I had to build a new life for myself and I wasn’t sure how I was going to do it all alone. In hindsight, I know that God was instilling in me lessons that I would need for the road ahead. Through 6 Stones, God showed me that He wasn’t done with me yet. I could still serve Him. Still make an impact on this world. It has been an amazing journey and I’m so thankful!

Families get all the joy of the holidays during Night of Hope, from craft projects to good old-fashioned quality time together.

I think the reason 6 Stones has been successful in the past is that people all over this community are willing to jump on board and do Kingdom work, even if they don’t realize that they’re doing Kingdom work. Everyone understands the Christmas need, even if they don’t believe in the figure at the center of the Christmas story. And living out His command to love one another is our chance to show others why we believe in Him!

It is amazing to see God’s hand at work in a community where the cities, churches, school district, and nonprofits all work together to take care of our neighbors. You don’t see this make-up in other cities, where some of those facets might be in place but they haven’t been combined into a well-oiled machine. The people here are special: they can’t ignore a need once they know about it.

So as a board member, a community volunteer, and a follower of Christ, I want to invite you to be part of the magic of Christmas again this year. 4,000 students need our help. Let’s get to work!

Kim (left) and her mother make one final toy selection for a Night of Hope student.

Kim Campbell is a Senior Manager of Customer Advocacy at TXU Energy as well as an active member of the 6 Stones Board. Her thoughts, as recorded above, appear as a courtesy to 6 Stones. Our staff assisted in compiling and editing them for clarity and brevity. To find out more about Night of Hope and the students who benefit from it, visit 6stones.org/noh.

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