Away from the hustle and bustle of holiday shopping and spending, students at Oakland Junior High School have a free way to get gifts.
The Holiday Bazaar, organized by Pam Didur, is an event that allows the schools and the community to pull together to create an atmosphere of giving.
The bazaar, which will be held Dec. 19, usually provides gifts for 350 students, Didur said. “Teachers, following a set of guidelines, recommend students for the program.”
From 12:30 to 2:45 p.m., the students whose names are drawn get to do their holiday shopping in the media center. The room is split into a shopping center and a gift-wrapping center.
Each student drawn gets to choose two gifts, and a third can be chosen if the student is on the A or B Honor Roll.
The students pick out gifts and then go to the wrapping area where they either have the gifts wrapped for them or they wrap them themselves.
Didur said the students can pick out presents for themselves or for family members.
“They never choose for themselves,” she said. “It’s really sweet. More often than not they’ll choose for everyone but themselves.”
Didur said she thinks there are 100 to 150 people who are involved in making the bazaar possible.
“It’s certainly not something that I could do myself,” she said.
Didur said the whole bazaar is supported by donations from the community, staff and local businesses. She said she starts raising money and collecting donations in early November.
Local businesses have been donating to the bazaar for a long time, such as Play It Again Sports, Moresource Inc., Show-Me State Games, and Columbia Regional Hospital.
Kim Humphreys, the owner of Play It Again Sports, said his company usually donates basketballs and other playground equipment. “That seems to have the most appeal to the kids,” he said.
Humphreys said he decided to start donating to the bazaar because when he was young, he used to go to a coffee shop with his dad. A woman who worked there gave him a free piece of gum every time he came in. This small gift made Humphreys happy, so he decided he would make a similar gesture of kindness within his store.
“When I got my store, I decided to give to kids, just to make them happy,” he said.
Humphreys said he thinks the bazaar is a good event because it brings people together.“I think anything that gets parents, teachers and kids together all at the same time is a real plus,” he said.
Kat Cunningham, the owner of Moresource Inc., said her business donates anything and everything.
“Those children are giving to many different people,” she said. “We want to provide them with lots of different choices.”
Cunningham said his store donates to the bazaar because it participants in the Partners in Education program with the junior high school.
Didur said the program links local businesses with schools. Businesses often provide speakers and mentors for the school, and they also make monetary donations. The schools, in turn, send students to do things for the business. For example, Didur said the jazz band from Oakland goes to play at the businesses that are partnered with the school.
But, Moresource Inc. also donates to the bazaar because it’s a good event to donate to, Cunningham said.
“I think it’s good because it helps young people to get into the spirit of giving,” she said.
Didur said Show-Me State Games donates items such as soccer balls and T-shirts, or anything that it has overstocked. Columbia Regional Hospital donates items from its gift shop, such as stuffed animals, she said.
Along with community support, Didur also said the bazaar relies on support within the school.
While Didur is at the bazaar, someone has to teach either her ninth-grade science class or her science and engineering class..
Didur has been involved with the bazaar since she came to Oakland in 1991. She took over the event in 1996.
She said she continues to enjoy organizing the bazaar because of the way it makes her feel.
“It always puts holidays back into perspective for me,” she said. “It’s about the giving spirit and not about going out and spending a lot of money. It’s about the spirit behind the gifts, not the gifts themselves.”