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Store caters to young Santas

Volunteer elves help young shoppers choose gifts – and note the importance of keeping those gifts secret – at Santa Express, a holiday shop in downtown Spokane where kids can choose inexpensive gifts, with proceeds going to Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery. (File)
Volunteer elves help young shoppers choose gifts – and note the importance of keeping those gifts secret – at Santa Express, a holiday shop in downtown Spokane where kids can choose inexpensive gifts, with proceeds going to Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery. (File)

Oh, sure, it may be more fun to give than to receive.

But what if you’re 4? And you only have 50 cents? And you already distributed all your best cotton-balls-glued- to-tongue-depressors snowflake ornaments?

You could talk someone into taking you to Santa Express, a seasonal “store” set up for children ages 4 to 12 who can shop for Christmas gifts priced from 50 cents to $8.

In operation for more than 20 years, the store is among Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery’s biggest fundraisers. Last year it raised $80,000, said Amy Knapton, the nursery’s executive director.

“We’re 100 percent community-funded, so it’s things like that that keep our doors open,” she said.

Vanessa Behan, at 1004 E. Eighth Ave. in Spokane, offers 24-hour emergency child care, parent education and crisis counseling.

Knapton said a committee spends a year shopping for Santa Express gifts suitable for parents, teachers and siblings. Before children start shopping, their parents fill out a form specifying gift recipients and how much their child should spend.

Shoppers are matched with volunteer “elves” who help them choose gifts, which they wrap before they leave. Parents can shop while they wait in Vanessa’s Village, stocked with potential stocking stuffers and Secret Santa gifts.

Knapton has served as an elf.

“It’s fun to see the kids really contemplate what they want to pick out for somebody,” she said, laughing. “Some kids are very thoughtful and really get it right. Other kids are like, ‘That looks like something I really want, so I’m going to get it for my mom.’ ”

Adrian Rogers

When: Open now, Santa Express will remain open through Dec. 23 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays.

Where: Skywalk level of the Crescent Building, 707 W. Main Ave. in downtown Spokane.



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