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Children learn gift-giving at Santa Express

Ashley Rankin used the only method she knew to tie ribbon on the gift bags for her brother and parents: She tied a bow like she ties her shoes.

The 8-year-old had just finished shopping Friday at Santa Express, a holiday retail store for children ages 4 to 12 in downtown Spokane.

Parents set the spending limit and volunteers help the children shop for gifts, which are priced between 50 cents and $7.50.

“It was pretty easy to find stuff,” said Ashley, who whispered into a reporter’s ear what she bought for her brother.

“We are putting up our tree tonight.”

Proceeds from the sale of gifts and other holiday items to parents waiting for the kids’ shopping sprees to conclude, benefit the Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery, a shelter for children at risk of neglect or abuse, said organizer Mary Macri.

The Santa Express, in the skywalk level of the Crescent building at Main Avenue and Wall Street, will be open until Dec. 23.

However, Macri suggested that parents and day-care centers visit soon, because the toys are not restocked during the month the store is open.

This year marks the event’s 15th.

“This year we have volunteers who came here as little kids,” Macri said.

“The volunteers help the kids wrap and decorate the bags with crayons, stickers and markers.”

The store is open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Sunday hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

“It’s so special because kids put so much thought into this and because it’s for such a good cause,” Macri said.

Randi Rankin was waiting outside as Ashley put the finishing touches on her three gift bags. Eleven-year-old Alex would get his turn at the store next.

“Since (Ashley) had such a good time last year, she wanted to go again,” Rankin said.

“They get to learn how to share by getting things for other people instead of just getting presents. I think it’s important that they learn gift-giving.”

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