Santa's helpers return to Reed City

REED CITY — Muffled Christmas carols and the murmurs of students counting money aloud resonated in the gymnasium of G.T. Norman Elementary Tuesday as the annual craft and merchandise Santa’s Shoppe event commenced.

As dozens of volunteers helped elementary students weave throughout the maze of tables laden with merchandise from local crafters, event director Bonnie Danzeisen sat behind one of the tables, helping students choose between her own handmade pillows and Christmas crafts.

A former teacher of 23 years and the event director for 12 years, Danzeisen never seemed to grow tired of the endless supply of children looking to buy crafts for themselves or their family.

“We make our stuff all year. It’s all for the kids,” Danzeisen said.

Indeed, with all of the expenses coming out of the pockets of local crafters like Danzeisen and the average profit of a dollar an hour, money certainly isn’t the main objective. The crafters were all aware of these stipulations when they applied for a table, but the primary goal of giving the children an opportunity for learning more about cash transactions, giving to others and becoming more independent has fueled the drive to keep Santa’s Shoppe going strong.

“I really enjoy it,” April Sunderlin-Cole, a volunteer and grandmother to one of the students, “It really brings out the Christmas spirit.”

Students were given an envelope to take home to their parents that explained the fundamentals of the event. They were sent back to school with money they could spend on the local merchandise. With no item costing more than $5, the students were able to use budgeting and reasoning skills while at the same time buying Christmas gifts for their families.

Some students were even able to work a table selling handcrafted items from their class. According to Denise Nelson, a fourth grade teacher at G.T. Norman and the Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) president, the goal was to help students practice their counting skills.

“We encourage them to count the change out loud,” Nelson said, “All of the students working at the table had to take and pass a little quiz in order to earn a shift at the table. The kids love it. Our profits go toward a field trip.”

The PTO sponsored the event, along with the profits made from the crafters, who paid to have their tables present. Other schools in the area have hosted or plan to host similar events soon.