It's a little-known fact that Santa Claus lives on Chelsea.
For the last three years, Santa and his helpers at the Oasis of Hope Toy Store have made Christmas a possibility for over 850 North Memphis families.
The store is not open to the general public but is "designed for neighborhood families and those in significant financial need," says Oasis of Hope chairman Tom Capon. With much of the store's merchandise donated by members of Hope Presbyterian Church in Cordova, the store offers name-brand toys to disadvantaged families at an affordable price.
"Our desire is for North Memphis residents to have a quality neighborhood outlet to purchase Christmas gifts for their children," says Capon. "The gratification people express at being able to provide for their families and themselves is immeasurable."
Toys that retail for $10 at area stores cost about $3 at Oasis, while pricier items, those in the $50 to $75 range, sell for about $20.
Oasis staff work with area schools and community centers to compile the store's invitation list, which is sent out to select families each year in mid-November. And even though shoppers save an average 70 percent off the retail price, Oasis staff members are adamant that toys should never simply be given away.
Former Hope Urban Ministries head and Oasis of Hope architect Cornelius Sanders envisioned the store as a way for people to earn something for their families and to create a sense of satisfaction that they could take pride in.
Pamela Chambers-Hill, the 2006 marketing chairman for the church's Toys of Hope program, says she started helping because the program reached out to a group of people who are often overlooked during the holiday season. "There are a lot of programs out there that target the very, very poor. Meanwhile, people who are working hard to make ends meet get lost in the shuffle," she says. "Not everybody qualifies for giveaways."