PAINESVILLE, Ohio — What began as an eight-year-old girl’s Christmas wish has turned into a community movement to make Lake County a better land.
For nearly a decade, the Hope Shoppe has helped homeless families check off their holiday gift lists.
Sydney Winner raised questions when she visited Project Hope with her father nine years ago.
Where does everyone sleep? Where is all their stuff?
“I couldn’t imagine being a kid and not having my own bedroom and my own house to rely on and go back to,” Sydney said.
Her realization brought to life the Hope Shoppe. It’s a pop-up Christmas shop at Project Hope, the only homeless shelter in Lake County.
“The only thing worse than not getting a lot of presents at Christmas is being the only one of your cousins without a gift for Grandma,” Mark Winner said, “Or the only one of your classmates without a gift for your teacher.”
Kids living at Project Hope are invited to pick out gifts for the people they care for most.
“Just being able to like pick something out on their own,” Sydney said. “And pick something out that they think their mom would really love.”
The Winner family says the shopping trip gives those children a sense of purpose they may have never experienced before.
“We give the kids a little bit of dignity at Christmastime that they can show up and give and not just receive,” Winner said.
According to recent population statistics, nearly 19,000 people in Lake County live below the poverty line.
“Not having a gift to give, it’s embarrassing,” Winner said. “It’s humiliating to be honest with you, especially in a school setting or among your cousins.”
The Hope Shoppe doors are opened to a large number of people that the Winner family hopes to remind they are not forgotten.
“They get to walk out with a Santa Claus sized bag full of gifts for their family and their friends,” Winner said.
The Hope Shoppe is funded by donations from various Northeast Ohio organizations and families.
This year, the pop-up shop was stocked with more than 1,000 gifts for Lake County children to choose from.
For more information or if you wish to donate for the 2020 holiday season, click here.