You are currently viewing ‘Christmas Store’ for families who are homeless, low-income carries on despite coronavirus – Press Telegram

‘Christmas Store’ for families who are homeless, low-income carries on despite coronavirus – Press Telegram


By Gary Metzker,

Contributing writer

Twins Lynda Moran and Brenda Wilson just could not agree on something very near and dear to their hearts — the New Image 26th Annual Children’s Christmas Store.

The sisters founded New Image Emergency Shelter for the Homeless, a Long Beach nonprofit that helps those living on the streets throughout Los Angeles County, more than 30 years ago. The nonprofit provides multiple services to those who are homeless, including temporary and permanent housing, case management, and help with job searches.

And for a quarter-century, New Image has also operated a Christmas Store each winter to provide food, clothing, books, shoes and more to those who need them, particularly homeless and low-income families with children. During its 25-year run, the Christmas store has served more than 23,000 children and more than 8,500 families, organizers estimated.

But for a time, it was unclear whether the Christmas Store would happen this year.

Wilson had been convinced that this year’s event — scheduled from 1 to 6 p.m. Dec. 19 in the Hilton Hotel’s Broadway Avenue parking lot — would have to be put on hold. Funding wasn’t coming through, corporations weren’t donating as much and — perhaps most importantly — the coronavirus pandemic continues worsening.

But Moran dug in her heels. She told her twin the show must go on. More than 70 social service agencies — which provide referrals for who the store helps — were counting on them to help provide toys, shoes, clothing and supermarket gift cards to more than 2,000 children of homeless and low-income families.

“You have to understand the twin thing,” Moran said. “People think you are always on the same wavelength. No. Not at all. We’ve been disagreeing.

“This (event) is my heart. This is my baby,” Moran added. “She said, ‘No we aren’t,’ and I said, ‘Yes we are.’”

The disagreement grew. The sisters stopped talking.

Then, one day recently, Wilson called her sister — crying.

“She never, ever cries. I’m the crybaby,” Moran said. “So, she is on the phone and she is all choked up. She tells me to go into my messages and so I do, and there is a picture of a Christmas tree.”

That tree was accompanied by a banner that said, “Pay It Forward,” and hand-made signs requesting food and toys — all on display at the Seal Beach of QDoxs, Xerox Corporation’s local sales agency and a longtime sponsor of the Christmas Store.

The message was from Lindsey Marks, the longtime salesperson at QDoxs, who explained to the sisters that the company had been advertising for the Christmas Store and gathering donations.

“I had just gotten off the phone with Lynda and said, ‘I love you, but we’re not doing it,’” Wilson said, “when I opened an email from Lindsey.”

Wilson texted Marks, saying, “I guess what you’re doing is a sign that we should go forward with the 26th annual Children’s Christmas Store.”

As for the twins: No more silent treatment.

“(Wilson) said the Christmas Store is on,” Moran said. “We just embraced each other.”

Marks, who is vice president of sales for QDoxs, is Long Beach born and raised. She said she became friends with the twins more than two decades ago but didn’t tell them what she was planning to do this year.

“Our company has never done anything like this before,” Marks said. “This year, I thought, we have been trying to stay positive what with COVID, so I decided I wanted to take it a step further along with the whole thing of paying it forward. I want to take the power of our group and expand it.

“Brenda and Lynda have done so much,” Marks added. “They are so selfless. It’s amazing. I really feel like everyone should be a part of it because every little bit counts.”

Moran and Wilson, for their parts, have also traveled to homeless encampments this year, where they saw strollers and baby items outside tents.

“I’ve seen so many kids and have delivered so many diapers this year and that isn’t good,” Wilson said. “This pandemic is just horrible. It’s heartbreaking. It just opened my heart after saying no (to the Christmas Store) and that all the agencies were saying you just got to do it.”

Moran has been writing grant applications as New Image seeks to help families pay their rent. But as quickly as the money comes in, she said, it goes right back out.

“Before, I was getting all these calls that, ‘My rent is $1,000 and I only have $700,’” Moran said. “Now, the callers say they are two months behind.”

Moran and Wilson are scrambling to get back on schedule for the 26th edition of their event. Twenty-five years of experience went out the window when the coronavirus hit. Instead, they had to figure out how to hold such an event while keeping everyone as safe as possible from the coronavirus.

The plan is for the approximately 1,200 children to get out of their cars. An elf will meet them and take them to a hand sanitizer station, where the kids will also receive a Christmas mask to wear. All the elves will wear masks and gloves.

The children will then be led to the different tables filled with clothing, books, electronics, toys and bicycles, scooters and skateboards. Everything will be disinfected. Santa Claus will be in a different area of the parking lot.

“The people at the Hilton Hotel said we are going to make it happen,” Wilson said. “The Lord is saying do it, so we are saying let’s do it.”

Moran said it will take about 10 to 12 hours to set up the Hilton parking lot for the invitation-only drive-thru event.

And, of course, there’s the matter of getting enough donations.

“Here we are less than a month away,” she added, “and I believe we will get the support to make this happen.”


New Image is still looking for donations of food for holiday baskets, clothing, books, shoes, perfume sets, watches and headphones for teens, learning instruments, board games, sports gear, and bicycles, scooters and skateboards.

Folks willing to donate can drop off items at the New Image Emergency Shelter, 4201 Long Beach Blvd., Suite 218, in Long Beach. Information:

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