As the calendar flips to December, community rec centers are preparing their annual Christmas events for people for all ages in their communities.
One such activity spreading holiday joy this year is the YMCA of Washington County’s annual Christmas Bazaar located in Washington, Iowa.
Angela Goodwin, the marketing and fundraising director, said the Christmas Bazaar has been a staple in the community since the late 1960s. The bazaar gives kids a chance to build confidence, independence and a sense of pride that comes from spending money they earned to purchase gifts for the loved ones in their lives.
“The inventory for the bazaar is purchased with sponsorship money that is donated for the event or gift items donated by local businesses and community members,” said Goodwin. “Wrapping paper, boxes and bows are all collected throughout the year also for this event. It’s also known for its incredible pool of volunteers who make this event happen. Volunteers of all ages help with shopping, wrapping and organizing the bazaar. We couldn’t do it without them.”
Upon check-in, each child fills out gift tags for the people they are shopping for. Parents and younger siblings can wait outside the doors and enjoy coloring pages, a movie, breakfast treats and refreshments while the shoppers get to work.
Each child gets an “elf” who is a volunteer from the Y acting as their personal shopping assistant. Items are no more than $5, and they range from jewelry to books, crafts, hats, tools and toys.
“The bazaar is open to children from any town, and a membership to the Y is not required,” said Goodwin. “The only requirement is the list stays at 10 items and under to ensure each child has an opportunity to purchase something. The goal is to give kids a chance to be in the gift giving process by using what they have in their piggy banks.”
Goodwin added many parents remember attending this event as a child and want their children to have the same experience they had.
“It is so rewarding to see the pride they have because it’s something they picked out on their own,” said Goodwin. “We average anywhere from 70 to 80 kids each year. The magic of Christmas is in the relationships we build and the feeling we get when we impact the lives of others in a positive way. That’s what the Y is all about, so just trust the process for any event or Christmas-themed program you are having or creating.”
Here are more ways community rec center are celebrating Christmas with the public this year.
Blue Springs, Missouri
For the 35th year, Jackson County Parks and Rec will be hosting its annual Christmas in the Park attraction for the community. Attendees can drive through the Longview Lake Campground to see a winter wonderland featuring more than half a million lights and 200 animated displays.
Admission is free. However, voluntary exit donations benefit more than 39 local charities. Since its inception, Christmas in the Park has donated over a million dollars to charities in the community.
Find out all of the information for Christmas in the Park.
On December 17, the Treasure Valley Family YMCA will hold its 39th Annual Christmas Run. Runners can choose between the one-mile reindeer dash race, the two-mile run or the six-mile option.
After finishing, participants can enjoy a warm cup of soup from Panera Bread and a bagel from Blue Sky Bagels. Winners and top finishers receive awards at the Boise High School Cafeteria. Overall winners, costume contest winners and raffle winners will receive holiday floral arrangements.
Learn more about the YMCA Christmas Race.
Santa Claus will make his annual visit to the YMCA of Greater Brandywine’s Upper Main Line Branch for the annual Christmas Festival on December 14. Families can take photos with Santa under his tent while also enjoying several festive indoor activities like an inflatable slide and obstacle course.
Admission is $15 per family or a $5 individual minimum donation. All proceeds support the Y’s financial assistance program. All children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult.
Read about the other attractions available at the Christmas Festival.