Tammy Ponder walked through the massive Community Services League Christmas Store in Blue Springs savoring what might be her last holiday shopping spree.
“I’m very sick, and this has been a part of Christmas for me the past three years,” said Ponder, who carried oxygen with her, along with a cart full of Christmas goodies, “and this might be my last time to come to the store at Christmas.”
“And I just want everyone at the Community Services League to know that I love them, and what they have meant to me the last three years. I feel blessed because I met all these wonderful Christmas angels.”
Melodie Chrisman, the Blue Springs CSL site manager, hears stories daily as she helps people who are down on their luck and need a little love, and a few gifts at Christmas. But she can’t hold back the tears as she talks about Tammy and what she has been through.
“You know this is my favorite day of the year,” said Chrisman, who was going from table table to assist shoppers, “because you can look at the smiles on the faces and know what this means to them.”
“I know Tammy is sick, and I just love her so much. If we were able to bring a little happiness into her life, that is my reward, that is my gift – the only gift I need this Christmas.”
While the Blue Springs area has a one-day Christmas Store, that served more than 880 families Thursday, the CSL site on Noland Road in Independence has a four-day Christmas event. It runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. today and Saturday, Monday and Tuesday.
While Chrisman and her staff of “elves” know many of the shoppers, the site manager gravitates to a new face.
The woman’s name is Tynisha, and her story is filled with sadness and hope.
Her husband has had three back surgeries and two heart attacks in the past three years and she suffers from an autoimmune disorder that keeps her from working. She has twins at home, and one battles asthma.
“This means everything to me and my family – everything,” said Tynisha, “because we would not have had a Christmas if it wasn’t for Miss Melodie and the Community Services League.”
“The Community Services League is making sure we have Christmas and is going to help us with some other things, too. I don’t know where we’d be without them.”
The tables inside the store are marked for boys and girls, ages 0-4, 5-9, 14-18 and adult.
Every family receives a special gift, like a crock pot or dishware, depending on the size of that family, there is gift wrap, and every present includes batteries.
“The batteries are a big deal,” Chrisman said, “because we don’t want a child to open a present and not have batteries.”
Volunteer Jim Bozarth is in charge of setting up the store and said more than 30 volunteers from his Chapel Hill Presbyterian Church helped.
“Beginning Monday, we basically worked from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and later on around 1 p.m. until the late evening setting this up,” Bozarth said. “It’s a labor of love. This is just a part of our holiday season.”