Children’s Shopping Tour set with unique COVID-19 guidelines

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The 58th Annual Children’s Shopping Tour is set for Dec. 12 and while there has been a lot of change this year because of the pandemic, one thing that hasn’t changed is the need in the community for this event.

In order to still hold the event, the Pampa Optimist Club and the steering committee for the Children’s Shopping Tour has several contingency plans in place to protect the children and volunteers.

“Our primary concern is the safety of the children and right behind them are the volunteers,” Steering Committee Chair Lori Carroll said. “We presented some stages to the [COVID-19 task force] depending on our numbers and certain levels we will do certain things.”

If the numbers are too high, they will simply pick the children up, do the shopping, get a meal for the family of the child and take them home.

If the numbers are low enough, it will look more like the traditional Children’s Shopping Tour. Children will be picked up, go shopping, take them to the Optimist Club for wrapping of the presents and then take them home with a meal for the entire family.”

In either circumstance, masks are required by the volunteers and the children.

“Everyone who enters the Optimist Club, whether a volunteer or child, will have their temperature checked at the door,” Steering Committee Member John Warner said. “We are social distancing with the tables at least six feet apart during the wrapping. We may use other parts of the Optimist Club if we need to.”

The organization is working with the COVID-19 task force to make sure every precaution needed is being taken. The approach taken may come down to the County’s situation a day or two before the Tour.

Warner said the goal of the Tour is to teach children the true meaning of Christmas.

“We want to teach the children about Christ coming to earth and that he came to give, and not to receive,” Warner said. “That’s why they shop for their family and not for themselves.”

The hope is the groups come in waves into the Optimist Club so not to run into capacity issues.

The Tour anticipates serving less children, around 25 to 40 (down from 60 in 2019), but doesn’t think that’s because the need isn’t there.

“We haven’t received many applications,” Warner said. “We expect to get more and try to serve the need the best we can.”

The deadline for applications for the event is Dec. 10. They can be sent to John Warner Law Firm at 309 W. Foster, St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church 810 at W. 23rd, Pampa Regional Medical Center at 1 Medical Plaza and New Horizon Community Fellowship at 711 E. Harvester.

The checkout lines at Walmart will be manned by members of the Pampa Lions and Pampa Kiwanis Club. 

Children are given $50 for each family member and includes a 10 percent discount and tax-free (Optimist Club is a 501(c)(3)) which gives the children more cushion for shopping.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made volunteers hesitant to come out, but the Tour needs about 180 to 200 volunteers to make the event happen.

“There may be some reluctance because of the coronavirus,” Warner said. “But we want everyone to understand we are doing what we can to protect everybody. We don’t want to spread coronavirus in any form or fashion. But we are hoping our volunteers will come out in full force because we may need a couple extra due to all of the measures we are taking.”

Volunteers for registration are instructed to be at the Optimist Club at 7:15 a.m. that morning and the rest of the volunteers are encouraged to be there at 7:30 a.m.

Warner said this is one of the most rewarding experiences one can experience.

“This year is different but it’s Christmas,” Warner said. “These kids are between the ages of five and 10. Most of them have never experienced giving at Christmas before.

“Years ago my wife and I took this five-year-old boy shopping. When we walked out of the Optimist Club he had his arms full of packages. He looked up at me and said ‘Mr. Warner, this is the happiest day of my life. That’s the kind of experience we’re hoping these children have as they find joy in giving.”

For more information, call Lori Carroll at AimBank at 806-665-0022. Registration is available online at www.cstpampa.com.

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