Flagler County, FL (December 18, 2021) – They’ve been rounding up volunteers for decades at Flagler Volunteer Services, helping with everything from post disaster events to serving local non-profits in time of need.

On Saturday their mission was to serve 420 children from across Flagler County to ensure children would have a chance to know what it’s like to give others the gift of Christmas.

For volunteers like Jan Sutton, who love helping out but shun the limelight, it takes a little bit of extra work to get the story out of them, but once you get them talking, the pure joy they receive from helping others is a gift unto itself.

Volunteers Jan Sutton & Arlene Weber on December 18, 2021 for the Flagler Volunteer Services 29th Annual Giving Store at Cattleman’s Hall in Flagler County, Florida. Photo: Danielle Anderson/Flagler News Weekly

Sutton has been the lead on The Giving Store for the past several years, and has it down to a science.

“We have an awesome group of volunteers and we’re ready. We need all hands on deck,” she said, before shifting the conversation to another standout volunteer.

“Toni organizes the volunteers for the Rummage Sale. She also organizes the volunteers for The Giving Store for the whole set up week and move outs from the storage units. Personally, I would be lost without her,” said Sutton, spotlighting Toni Donahue, another volunteer who prefers to work behind the scenes.

“A lot of the people don’t like the limelight. We need everybody and if they don’t want to be in the limelight, that’s ok too,” she said.

Working alongside volunteer Arlene Weber, the trio have the process running efficiently to serve each family in a timely manner as the parents wait patiently in Cattleman’s Hall and their children ‘shop’ for family gifts.

Volunteers wrap gifts for each child during the 29th Annual Giving Store on December 18, 2021. Photo: Danielle Anderson/Flagler News Weekly

Overseeing the greeting, the shopping and the wrapping stations between them, each operate like a well-oiled machine thanks to the volunteers’ efforts.

“It’s a lot of work but we all love what we’re doing,” exclaims Weber, a Giving Store volunteer since 2016.

“They’re all volunteers, so everybody picks what they like to do,” she said, ensuring a positive experience for both the child and the volunteer.

Even Santa Claus volunteers his time for The Giving Store.

“It was one of the volunteers here that asked if we could volunteer for this,” shared Dale Burrows aka Santa. “We have to do it because that is what Christmas is about.”

Dale and Patty Burrows as Santa & Mrs. Claus on December 18, 2021 for the Flagler Volunteer Services 29th Annual Giving Store at Cattleman’s Hall in Flagler County, Florida. Photo: Danielle Anderson/Flagler News Weekly

Volunteer Coordinator Judy Mazzella says it’s a combined effort between the community, generous donors and dedicated volunteers that ensures The Giving Store can serve a tremendous number of families each year.

“There’s a lot of larger families and grandparents raising children, and we’re just happy to be able to help all the children,” said Mazzella.

“It is fantastic to be back in person this year. For today only, there’s about 125 volunteers and then (more) throughout the week. We’ve been setting up since Saturday,” she said.

With approximately 2,500-2,800 gifts collected throughout the year to distribute today on a single day, it’s with a full heart that everyone pitches in to make the day memorable for all involved.

“The volunteers are just as happy to be able to come back here as the kids are to come shopping.”

See the holiday photo gallery here. 

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