Rotary holds annual shopping spree Over 100 kids aged 6-10 years were paired with a volunteer each during a shopping spree at Walmart and they could buy whatever they want as part of Christmas bonanza.

A member of the Morristown AM Rotary Club checks out action figures with a young shopper Tuesday at Walmart.
A member of the Morristown AM Rotary Club checks out action figures with a young shopper Tuesday at Walmart.

The Morristown Rotary AM Club (Tennessee, US – D 6780) Shopping Spree on Tuesday was an essential pairing, fulfilling the need of each volunteer and child for more than just a few minutes of charitable giving.

It was one influencing the other in a lasting, positive way.

State Senator Steve Southerland has been participating in the spree for 28 years.

His emotions got the better of him when comparing his first trip to the one he completed on Tuesday.

“It’s been an excellent experience, from the first child I got — we were doing it at Rose’s back then,” Southerland said.

“I took him in and said, ‘You can have anything you want in here,’ and he said, ‘I want a coat.’ So I took him and got him a coat and some other clothes and then we went over to the toys and I told him the same thing, that he could pick out whatever he wanted. I had really wanted to get him a bicycle. He looked around for a few minutes and picked out a $3.95 GI Joe. ‘That’s all I want,’ he said.”

Southerland convinced the child to choose more than just one toy.

‘You’ve got to a have a helicopter and a tank and this other man to fight with,’ Southerland told him.

On Tuesday, Southerland was paired with a boy whose father had recently passed away.

“The teachers from the school and the assistants said he was wanting a bicycle,” Southerland said.

“So he got to try out the bicycles, and he wanted one with back brakes. So we got him a helmet and a coat and some clothes and shoes and everything he needs,” Southerland said.

A teacher told Southerland that one day on the school bus, a classmate was telling the little boy about the gifts for her under the family’s Christmas tree.

He told the teacher that he didn’t have any and didn’t think he was going to get any.

“This is Christmas for me,” Southerland said.

“You just don’t realise the need that’s out there for these children. Over 40 per cent of children in need live with their grandparents, it’s a hardship on them.”

Club president Marilyn Medley assisted in the organised chaos that descended on the Walmart superstore at Crockett Square in east Morristown.

“It’s a great thing that Rotary does. We’ve brought 110 kids, between the ages of six and 10, to shop with a volunteer shopper.”

“First, we buy clothes and then we head to the toy department. A lot of times, they want to buy for their sisters and brothers. And we go along with that.

“We work with the school system; they have wonderful coordinators who help us choose the children in need. All the kids also get to have cookies and milk and get their pictures made with Santa,” Medley said.

“We have a lot of shoppers who have done it every year; they’ve been around as long as I have and that’s been a long time. And we have some new faces, too,” she said.

Two of Medley’s co-workers at the Morristown Housing Authority office participated as first-time shoppers on Tuesday.

“They’re evidently having a great time, because I haven’t seen them,” Medley said.

Denise Aludo, CASA executive director and Rotary AM member, said she absolutely loves the shopping spree.

“As a matter of fact, this shopping day is what puts me in the Christmas spirit. I get so excited, I get as excited as the kids, seeing their faces as they come in and watching them as they shop. It’s wonderful. I love being a part of it,” Aludo said.

“I look forward to it, because it puts me in the holiday spirit,” Mary Moffatt, Rotary AM team captain for Lincoln Elementary, said.

“To see the smiles on the kid’s faces, you can’t help but get in the Christmas spirit.”

“I actually had two extra shoppers, so I teamed them up and it worked out beautifully. We’re all strangers to these young elementary kids, so they are a little bit reserved.”

“All our volunteer shoppers are warm people; there are a lot of human resources people, or public relations people, and they draw the children out.  The kids come walk in, heads down and barely talking.”

“And by the time they get to the register, they’re saying, ‘I got this and I got that,’ and they’re excited to go get a cookie and see Santa,” Moffat said.

Sue Dennison with Walmart East, has been working the Shopping Spree for more than 25 years.

She and six extra cashiers, all of whom came in on their day off, manned the front for the 8 to 11 am Rotary AM shift.

“We did it when Walmart was in the HealthStar building, but it wasn’t on this big of a scale,” Dennison said.

“We just had to get the labels and the bags on the register. The third shift brings up the large carts for us and have them ready at the front.

“Anytime I ask anyone in the store for something for the Rotary club, they’re all for it. All these people you see cutting the tags and helping bag are department managers.”

“I just called ‘Rotary people to the front’ and here they came. It’s just a once-a-year thing and everybody loves it and gets into it. It’s just really fantastic day for us,” Dennison said.

Source: Citizen Tribune 

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