Photo: On Dec. 9 and 10, Elburn Community Center hosted the Christmas Swap Shop, an event where moms swap out things they no longer need with things they do. The event was hosted by Authentic Moms, a local Christian mom’s group. Here, some early birds take advantage of some free snacks. Photo by Mary Herra
by Susan O’Neill
Elburn—If anyone has a doubt that the Christmas spirit is alive and well in Elburn, they should have been at the Elburn Community Center on Saturday for the Authentic Moms’ Christmas Swap Shop.
The Community Center’s gymnasium was filled with neatly folded children’s clothes sorted by size, toys, video games and DVDs, strollers, high chairs and car seats, some of which looked almost brand new. Moms (and dads) were walking past the tables, looking through the items, mostly for Christmas presents for their children, or for an item that would fill a need or a want.
A young girl rode up to her mom on a tricycle.
“Mom, look at me!” she cried out.
“Did your dad send you over here with that?” the mom, laughing, asked her daughter.
The casual observer could guess that the bike might just be going home with the little girl that day.
The difference between this and Christmas shopping scenes elsewhere that day was that, instead of the shoppers paying for the presents or putting them on their charge cards, they would be taking them home for free.
The swap shop began with a Christian mom’s group that formed about four years ago. The women, who attend several different churches and various Bible study groups, get together on a regular basis for dinner, fellowship and to support each other as moms, Elburn resident Jill Olson said.
“We lift each other up and encourage each other,” Geneva mom Kristen Ernst said. “People in the group pray for you.”
The swapping began informally, Olson said.
“Kids are always outgrowing stuff, and moms always need stuff,” she said.
“Someone would say, ‘I have a crib. Does anybody have a stroller?’” added Ernst.
The group decided a few years ago to open up the swap to the wider community, said Elburn mom Nicole Duski, coordinator of the event. The moms host two swaps a year—one in the spring and one just before Christmas.
“The Christmas one is near and dear to my heart, especially during this economy when so many people are struggling,” Duski said.
Duski said she has heard women say that if it were not for the swap, they wouldn’t have anything to put under the tree for their kids.
“Kids don’t know if the toys are brand new, she said. “They don’t care.”
People are blessed both by the giving and the getting, Batavia mom Heather Kwitschau said. She participates in both, and was one of about 60 women who dropped things off on Friday. Many of the women worked well into the evening, sorting everything.
“On the one hand, it’s an opportunity to find something that your kids really need,” she said. “On the other hand, when you drop something off, you feel good knowing that it’s going to someone who can use it.”
Duski said that as she watched people take things out the door, others continued to drop things off.
“It keeps multiplying,” she said. “God provides.”
The group has been finding more ways to spread the word, including family members, pre-schools, libraries and friends.
“We had a great turn-out this year,” Duski said. “More than 200 people came and took things this time. The last time, there were 100.”
Even with the additional people, there was more than enough to go around. The left-over items were taken to the St. Vincent de Paul shop at the Civic Center in Maple Park, where donations are accepted but items are free to those in need.
These moms feel it is their responsibility as Christians to help others in this way.
“The scriptures tell us to love others both in word and in deed,” Olson said. “There is one that says, ‘How can we say we love our brother and send him away empty-handed when he is in need?’”
Kwitschau said that she and her children go through their things on a regular basis, giving away what they don’t need or use anymore.
“The kids grow up doing it without thinking,” she said. “It becomes a habit. It’s our role in showing love to each other.”
It is Ernst’s hope that people might see the grace behind the giving, and that it will make a difference beyond just fulfilling their physical needs.
“Maybe someone who doesn’t believe will see God’s love,” she said.
Next Authentic Moms’ Swap Shop
Friday, May 18, and Saturday, May 19
Drop items off on May 18;
pick items up on May 19
Elburn Community Center at 525 N. Main St. Elburn
AuthenticMoms@gmail.com • Nicole Duski at (630) 951-7397