‘ALL ABOUT JOY’

Featured Sliders / HER Community / Lifestyle / Stories / November 16, 2021

Fulton free store preps stockings, shares ways to give

Story and photos by India Garrish

Each year, a small free store in Fulton receives a donation of more than 300 Christmas stockings. Hundreds more Facebook messages come in on top of the hundreds they receive each day. And miraculously, they distribute more stockings each year — it’s just that time of year for From His House to Your House Free Store of Fulton.

“Last year, God helped us get 370 kids three gifts each and a full stocking,” said Lori Collins, who coordinates the Christmas stocking. “I don’t know how it happens. At no point did we feel like we had that much in here — it comes out as we go. That’s how Christmas is.”

Volunteer Lori Collins puts together a Christmas stocking for a teen girl at From His House to Your House Free Store of Fulton.

The Free Store has been in operation for six years after being given use to a building by the Fulton Housing Authority. Its longstanding tradition of giving out Christmas stockings has increased in magnitude every year, founder Connie Cashion said. Stockings are made for teens and younger, and as the store doesn’t accept funding, they are all based on donations.

Christmas stockings are made up of three gifts which can range from candy, fruit, coloring books, crayons, toy cars, bouncy balls, bubbles, stuffed animals, a hat and gloves, and more. Stockings are assembled in November to be given out the first part of December through Dec. 22. Even after that date, people can come in and ask for help — in the past, volunteers have saved extra toys in a tub in case an emergency request comes in.

“Sometimes, we get a call after the 22nd saying ‘I have nothing, we had a fire or someone stole my toys,’ so we give out whatever we have,” Collins said.

With many nonprofits hosting toy drives going during the holidays, she recommends people check those out first to see if they qualify. Some organizations set a deadline of October so store customers might not know until November or December that they need help with toys. As such, Collins starts taking down names in October from interested families and cross-references with organizations like Toys For Tots to make sure there is no double dipping.

“We encourage everyone to ask with organizations as they have brand new toys, to go sign up ahead of time,” she said.

Before the Free Store existed, Cashion’s first donation drive started around this time of year with a clothing drive — any extra clothing left at her church would be put in the fellowship hall and handed out during the winter. That idea snowballed — soon it was hot chocolate and a book, then it was renting a community center where 600 people were served food, all donations-based. Fourteen years later, the Free Store has been steadily increasing by around 100 stockings each year and donations have started early as it is expecting another increase this year.

“Christmas has gotten bigger, especially since people have been losing their jobs,” Cashion said.

Gifts are not pre-wrapped so parents and guardians have the chance to address them from Santa or their desired gifter. Both new and gently used toys are accepted. Collins and Cashion began in October asking about stocking stuffers on the store’s Facebook page as processing so many families out of their kitchen requires a head start.

“A lot of times (the items) will come in before I even post it,” Cashion said. “The Lord likes to show off.”

Customers aren’t required to show proof of income to receive a stocking, which Cashion said points back to the mission of the Free Store, where anyone regardless of financial situation can give or receive.

“When you come through that door, you’re no longer rich and you’re no longer poor,” she said. “I wanted it to feel like we can all bring something to the table, and everything brought to that table is just as good as another.”

Collins said this fills a need for families who are working to provide for their children from season to season — and it’s her joy to volunteer to help.

“It’s our joy to give, it’s peoples’ joy to receive,” she said. “It’s Christmas; it’s all about joy.”

Store hours are 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday and 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday. Cashion can be reached at 573-253-4323, and more information and updates on donations can be found at the Free Store Facebook page

Daily ways to give

Connie Cashion, founder of From His House to Your House Free Store of Fulton, shares a few ways people can give during the holidays that don’t depend on financial status:

• Tie scarves and gloves on a tree outside your home for passersby

• Shovel snow for someone

• Stop and shake a person’s hand

• Put together a food box or donate a turkey during Thanksgiving

• During Thanksgiving or Christmas, go through your clothes and furniture and see what you can give away

• Around Christmas, keep candy canes tied with a dollar bill in your purse, and give them out when you see someone in need

• If you’re worried about where your giving is going, bring supplies to places like free stores where they will be distributed according to need

Her ultimate advice: Go next door or across the street. Giving doesn’t have to be a show because anywhere you serve matters.


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Molly Morris




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