BRUCE, Wis. (WEAU) -- This holiday season, students at Bruce elementary are learning a lesson about the gift of giving. It’s all thanks to one local woman who is spreading holiday cheer the way she knows best, by giving back to others.
One woman in Bruce spends the entire year preparing for one special day at the elementary school. With help from volunteers, she transforms the school gym into the one-of-a-kind holiday gift shop for kids to pick out gifts to give to their family.
"I love Christmas, it is my time,” said Mary Arts who organizes the shopping day. There is only thing Mary Arts loves more than Christmas, and that's the holiday shopping day at Bruce Schools. "We collect gifts all year long, it's all used or we get some new gifts, people just donate, this is all donated,” Arts said.
For 16 years, she has been organizing this shopping experience for the kids. “The year I came, the teacher who was in charge of it was going to give it up so the principal said we are going to have to close it, I have no one and I said, no I'm doing it because I just liked it, now I love it,” Arts added.
But this year was extra special for Mary, after her daughter, who now lives in Madison took a surprise trip to help out. "It is such an undertaking, and I kind of see it all year long at her house because half of the garage is always overtaken, my dad's hunting room is totally overtake,” said Jennifer Mckersie, Mary’s daughter.
Knick knacks, decorations, toys and anything else you could possibly think of, gets donated to the gift shop each year. “When I started it was so much smaller and the gifts were smaller and through her magic, that's the only thing I can say is through her magic she has just expanded,” said volunteer, Sue Kempen.
For just $3, the kids are able to pick out 5 presents for their parents, siblings or other family members. "It's just a happy feeling in my heart because then I get to get stuff for my family and friends,” said Lily Jeremy, a fifth grade student.
Dozens of volunteers are on hand to help, but it would not be possible without Mary. “There is nobody better to work with, she is so easy going, she doesn't get riled up, somehow she makes the impossible happen and we all admire her beyond belief,” Kempen said.
While it is a lot of time and effort, Mary says she would not want it any other way. "I'm an old lady so it's hard…it's a feel good thing, it really is, I love it,” Arts said. "She is amazing, she really is,” Mckersie said.
The kids do pay $3 for the gifts but for kids that don't bring money, they cover the cost. Any money they do collect gets donated back to the school.