The Christmas Experience: Nonprofit supports parents by offering free shopping for holidays

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INDIANAPOLIS – As we inch closer to the holiday, our local non-profits are gearing up to help families who could use some help this season. There’s one church that transforms into a store for parents on the east and southeast sides of Indianapolis.

As a teenager, Ashley Nicole Dobbs admits to doing things she shouldn’t have.

“I was partying, I was drinking, I was smoking, I was doing pills,” she shared.

She knew she was going down the wrong path. Until her life changed when her father brought her to Church 52.

“That was probably the best decision that I ever made,” said Dobbs.

Not only did she find a community, but she found people who cared and wanted to support her, especially during the holiday season.

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“I didn’t really have the financial stability to pay rent and be able to get the kids Christmas and that was really hard because my pride wouldn’t let me ask for help,” said Dobbs.

Someone anonymously nominated her for the Christmas Experience. An opportunity for parents to come shop for their children. If parents are approved, they can shop for free, for toys, clothes, coats, shoes and more.

“I just remember pulling up at the back of the church and there were bags and boxes of toys for my kids,” said Dobbs, emotionally as she thought back to that day.

“This is like a pivotal moment in their life to spur them on to make better choices,” said Kathleen Harvey, a hostess for the Christmas Experience.

As hostess, Harvey helps families who come to the church to shop for items and walks them through the process. This year, the Christmas Experience has received more than 1,000 applications.

“It’s been so fun to watch how things, how the community has wrapped around this experience and has provided more and more each year,” Harvey added.

Along with the shopping, Church 52 connects families with resources and other services like a food pantry, free haircuts, family photos, jobs, financial and child support help.

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“One of the biggest privileges of the Christmas Experience is being able to give,” said Harvey.

Giving back and making a difference that lasts well into the new year.

Dobbs added, “That experience made me want to help other people when I was able to.”

Church 52 is no longer accepting applications for the Christmas Experience due to the overwhelming response they’ve seen this year.

Now they need help taking care of all of these families in need.  They are asking for donations.

If you would like to help, click here.

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