Kenai Christmas Store raises thousands

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2019 opening day nets $8,000

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The Kenai Corps’ Christmas Store started out small in 2004 as a women’s ministry project with just a few shelves and tables. Now in its 15th year, it raises thousands of dollars in just one monthfrom the first Saturday in November to the first Saturday in December. Located in Kenai, Alaska, south of Anchorage, the corps is run by Envoys Craig and Jeannie Fanning.

Previously, the corps struggled with fundraisers that generated a few hundred dollars, Jeannie Fanning said, adding, “our store has been a great success, not only for our bottom line, but for our community.” 

The project soon grew to encompass an entire room in the corps’ thrift store, which operates independently. 

Although it’s only open for a month, the store is a year-round project. The women’s ministry group collects Christmas items all year long. In October, the women, along with other volunteers, start arranging the items.

“Every light string is tested individually and bagged with the plug hanging out so the buyer can test it,” Fanning said. “Every dish is cleaned. Nothing broken is put out.”

The women’s ministry group keeps prices low on the Christmas Store items to generate sales. Fanning said words can’t really capture the Black Friday-like opening day experience—the 2019 opening day netted more than $8,000 in sales.

“The first day, there was a line waiting for over two hours for the doors to open. Some came from Anchorage, Homer, and Sewardall over 100 miles away,” said Home League member Debbie Canavan, who spearheads the annual project.

For the first few years, the women’s ministry kept the money made in the Christmas Store, choosing how to best use it. One year, the women in Kenai bought computers for five corps in Southeast, Alaska at the request of the Alaska Division. Fanning said the Kenai Women’s Ministry has used this fund to purchase new equipment for the Kenai Corps and supported divisional and territorial events, even sending delegates to Salvation Army congresses.

The fund is now large enough for the women to take a smaller cut of the net worth for women’s ministries’ projects, up to $15,000, and give the rest to the thrift store to offset its space and utility costs.

“The community loves this store and looks forward to its opening, and it makes more money and grows every year,” Fanning said. “This project takes a year of storing and saving, but it is so worth it, to the community and to the recipients of the ‘fruit.’ It also is a great way for our ladies to feel like they do make a difference in our corps and community.”

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