REED CITY — Every year local students look forward to the Santa Shoppe put on by their school during the holidays. About a dozen vendors set up at Norman Elementary last week with a large variety of items reasonably priced under $5 for students to buy. Students excitedly piled into the gym throughout the day looking for gifts for their family and friends.

One student noted, “There’s just so much to choose from.” Tables were filled with gift baskets, candy treats, handmade ornaments, toys, handmade soap and candles, crocheted items, painted plaques, and jewelry. Many parents volunteered to be “Santa’s Helpers” assisting students with their shopping.

One vendor has been bringing crafts to Santa Shoppes for well over 10 years. Chuck Hewlett and his wife Mary Jean, also known as Country Preacher Crafts, started making crafts many years ago to raise money for their church. When they were invited to start participating in local Santa Shoppes, they jumped at the chance. They even dress the part with their elf hats and workshop aprons. “We love doing this for the children and seeing how excited they get.” Chuck says as he busily glues together pieces of candy. His candy trains and ornaments are a popular and delicious purchase among the students. Mary Jean says every year they still also sell a lot of plain wooden tops and back scratchers. “The kids just love them.” Sometimes the simplest thing makes a great gift.

Pine River, Tustin and Evart schools are also having their own Santa Shoppes. These events are organized by members of the PTO as early as October to make sure everything runs smoothly. Their work is what keeps this great tradition going for our children and is very much appreciated. The joy of giving that these children feel makes all the work worthwhile. One student couldn’t have said it any better, “I like that I can get something nice for my mom and dad because they are always giving me things I need. I like that I can show them I love them too.”