Seeks volunteers and donations

Dorri Partain 

As the holidays quickly approach, those who struggle day to day may feel the extra burden to provide their family with holiday dinners and gifts under the tree and the City Union Mission is set to assist many Kansas City area families through their Mission: Christmas program.

“This year, we’re expecting to assist 1100 families, with Thanksgiving meal boxes, Christmas gifts for all ages, and Christmas meal boxes,” stated Karl Ploeger, Chief Development Officer with the mission. “That translates to approximately 15,000 gifts for the average family of four.”

To fulfill that goal, the mission looks to area organizations, businesses, schools, churches, and individuals to provide donations of gift items, money, and time.

“We don’t receive any government assistance,” Ploeger continued. “All our funding, 100 percent, comes from the community.”

During a recent afternoon, the mission’s Community Assistance Center (1700 E. 8th.) was buzzing with activity as staff and volunteers filled out forms for those seeking to receive assistance. Once approved, recipients were given a Thanksgiving meal box, a $20.00 voucher for a meat item of their choice, and a ticket to shop for gifts in the mission’s Christmas store, which opened on November 13.

The ticket allows qualified shoppers a chance to select gifts for their family members, themselves, as well as select a family gift, such as a household appliance, cookware, or blanket. The stocked shelves are filled with an array of toys sorted as appropriate for different age groups that Ploeger joked as their version of Walmart.

One difference is that the mission’s Christmas store is entirely staffed by volunteers, who help shoppers select gifts, restock store shelves, sort incoming gifts, and help load gifts from carts to cars. With eight volunteers per three-hour shift, the mission partners with organizations to fill those positions.

“Many of our volunteers return every year. One need that grows every year is the number of recipients that don’t speak English, so if we could find volunteers that are bi-lingual , multi-lingual, that would really help,” stated Travis Strong, Associate Director of Women & Family Ministry. Additionally, Strong stated that requests for assistance were up 50 percent from last year. “Right now, families are really struggling.”

Christmas store shoppers are able to select three gifts for each child, two for each teen, two for each adult, and a family gift. Stocking Stuffers, a colorful drawstring cloth bag, are filled with age-appropriate toys and games. The mission partners with churches that sponsor sewing groups to make the bags and the mission provides the items to fill them.

Julie Steiner and Jan Connor are good friends that seek out volunteer opportunities and were busy Monday morning filling the Stocking Stuffer bags.

“This is our first time volunteering here. Travis told us what the program is all about, the need it fills. It’s a great cause, we’d love to come back and help out again,” Connor said.

Shoppers will also receive their Christmas meal box and the $20.00 voucher for the meat of their choice. Depending on the shopper and the volunteers, the gifts may be wrapped or the shoppers receive gift paper to wrap them at home.

The Mission: Christmas program also provides a gift for each guest at the mission’s men’s shelter and their family shelter guests.

Gift donations can be delivered in person or online purchases sent to the Christmas Store, 1700 E. 8th Street in Kansas City, weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. from now through December 22nd. Gifts may also be dropped off at the Mission’s Family Center, 1310 Wabash, after 4 p.m. weekdays and anytime during the weekends. Monetary donations can be made at and volunteers can check available time slots and register at—christmas-store-assistant.