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The Church 52 Christmas Experience

Empowering parents to provide for their families.

Overview

The Christmas Experience is an annual event ministry that supports parents on the east and southeast sides of Indianapolis during the Christmas season in order to help them to help their families. 

 

Parents in need complete an online application and, if approved, are invited to “shop” free of charge from a fully stocked store carrying brand new toys, coats and shoes. Guests also have access to a complete food pantry (providing basic needs and holiday meals), as well as free resources such as haircuts, family photos, financial counselors, child support services representatives, resume and job-hunting guidance, and other community resources that can assist them through this difficult time in their lives. 

 

The ultimate goal of the Christmas Experience is for parents and their children to maintain their dignity while experiencing the true meaning of Christmas. 

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Background

The Christmas Experience began in 2010, when a group from Church 52 (www.church52.org) was ministering at a local jail and became aware that the families of inmates were struggling to provide Christmas for their families at home. That year, the church served 24 children and their families. 

Over the years, the event has grown consistently, and has expanded to include all families in need – not just those of inmates. Word has spread through the east and southeast communities of Indianapolis to the point where the Christmas Experience team no longer has to seek out families to invite – families in need are now referred to the church and go through a vetting process to verify and confirm their need. 

Guests of the Christmas Experience receive free haircuts, free
family photos, access to a food pantry and additional resources
such as local community centers and child support services. In
2020, 131 families and 402 children were guests of the
Christmas Experience, and approximately $40,000 worth of
merchandise was “sold” at no charge to these families.

GOAL

The goal of the Christmas Experience team is help to create a more stable, healthy community by connecting families to available resources and to help make a long-term difference in their lives, helping to position them for success. The team will do this by developing ongoing partnerships with local businesses, and by hosting annual fundraisers to fund the event.

Families

Children Served

WHO OPERATES THE CHRISTMAS EXPERIENCE?

The Christmas Experience is a ministry of Church52, an Assemblies of God church located at 8220 Brookville Road, Indianapolis, IN 46239.  The church was established in 2007. www.church52.org/ministries 

Church52 maintains 501(c)3 status, and all donations are considered tax deductible.

The Christmas Experience ministry is operated by a team of volunteers from the church, spearheaded by Mrs. Jamie Inskeep,the Outreach Team Leader at Church 52

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HOW ARE GUESTS SELECTED?

Potential guests of the Christmas Experience are asked to complete an online application and answer detailed questions about the family’s financial needs. They must report all additional financial assistance (such as food stamps, etc.) and provide a detailed narrative as to their need. Applications are then reviewed and equally evaluated as to those in most dire need. Guests are not permitted to attend the Christmas Experience more than twice, due to the team’s commitment to empowering families, rather than enabling them.

Many guest referrals come from school counselors who recognize need in their students’ families based on textbook assistance programs and free/reduced lunch programs.

Additionally, referrals come from church members, community colleges, east side school districts, local jails, the police academy, and community trustees.

HOW IS THE EVENT FUNDED?

The event is funded solely through donations from Church 52 members, local business sponsorships, and organized fundraisers such as a 5K run and motorcycle benefit rides.

Dont forget to select
“Christmas Experience Donation” from the dropdown

or email jamie@church52.org for more information.

HOW IS STORE MERCHANDISE ACQUIRED & MANAGED?

Items that will be “sold” in the Christmas Experience store are acquired in two ways: some items are donated, and additional merchandise is purchased by the team using donated funds. The team has secured charitable discounts at many retailers, and purchases in quantity wherever possible. 

The team has also developed a proprietary software program to inventory the items, and to provide a check-out process that tracks when an item is “sold” and must be replenished.

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HOW IS STORE MERCHANDISE SOLD?

Guests of the Christmas Experience are given the opportunity to pick out approximately 4 toys based on the children’s interests, equivalent to approximately $100 per child.  Guests also have the option to pick out a new pair of shoes and coat for each child under the age of 12.

HOW ARE PARTICIPATING COMMUNITY RESOURCES SELECTED?

Each year as the team is evaluating the applications, they become aware of certain needs and/or trends, and can then seek out community resources that can help to address those needs. Efforts are made to continually add more resources and provide a balanced, well rounded experience for guests.