Dear Diary,

This year, I bought a Christmas tree–an expensive, magnificent one with branches dipped in gold (glitter that is). I spent more money than I budgeted, but it was well worth it. You see, for the past couple of years, we had a Charlie Brown situation going on. With preschool tuition and a new car lease, I refused to spend more money to upgrade our tree–while important, it wasn’t a spending priority. But this year, I decided it was time to make the purchase, and buy mommy a gift for once.

So I invited my family over to celebrate. Of course, I knew the reason for the season. I grew up in a Christian household, and made sure Santa doesn’t overshadow Jesus in my daughter’s eyes. With or without decorations, we know why we’re gathering together and rejoicing. But nonetheless, there’s something magical about decking the halls. Maybe it’s the sparkling star on top of my parents’ house or the angel advent calendar hanging on our wall. Something makes the kids smile brighter and laugh laughter.

But not all families trim trees and string lights. Some families struggle to put food on the table, stuff stocking and buy gifts. And they depend on real life Saint Nick’s–like those working at the Free Store, to help make Christmas merry. The Free Store is just that. A store where everything inside is free! The store receives surplus and donated goods and redistributes them to neighbors in need–averaging about 300 people per week.  And this year, Diary of a First Time Mom and the Free Store received a big donation from At Home, a leader is holiday and home decor.

Around any holiday, whether it be Thanksgiving, Christmas or Easter, someone is always in need of something. When our amazing donors donate brand new pots, pans, christmas trees and much more, it means a lot to our shoppers that are in need of last minute things for the holiday. If it wasn’t for The Free Store’s donors, some children wouldn’t even be able to wake up to a tree and presents. The Free Store’s donors are who help make the store so unique and impactful.             Shiane Prunty, Free Store shopper and volunteer

Here’s how you too can help make Christmas merry for families in need.

At Home Holiday Decor

Donate Decorations

When you think of holiday donations, you usually picture toys. But many charities, like the Free Store are desperately seeking decorations. If you plan to purchase a new tree next year like I did, be sure to drop the old one off at the Free Store in Braddock or the new location in Wilkinsburg. You can also check out the huge sale underway at At Home’s Coraopolis location. We snagged holiday decor at 50% off!

At Home Holiday Decor 2

Donate Time

The Free Store is always looking for volunteers to unload supplies, unpack boxes and deliver donations. You may not get money for your time, but you’ll get lots of smiles and thank you’s, which are often more valuable.

At Home Candles

Give Gifts for Moms

Many moms save all year to buy presents for their children, without expecting one in return. Donating items such as candles, picture frames and other knick knacks will put a smile on moms faces. When moms take care of themselves, they can better care for their kids.

Hey DFTM Fam–If you plan to hit up the after Christmas sales, be sure to visit At Home. And make someone’s home even more cozy, by buying something you’ll donate. Meanwhile, let us know how your family gets in the spirit of giving. 

About The Author

Vlog Mom/DFTM Creator

Not long ago, Heather Hopson hosted a television show in the Cayman Islands. Today, she's back home writing a different kind of story as a new mom. In her 15 years working as a professional journalist, this by far is her best assignment! Growing up, she dreamed of becoming Oprah Winfrey. She was the features editor for her school’s newspaper and a teen talk show host for her city’s most popular radio station. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Michigan State University. After graduation, she worked as a television producer and reporter at CBS, NBC and Fox affiliates throughout the U.S. Instead of heading to Chicago to join Ms. Winfrey on her set, she bought a plane ticket to the Cayman Islands instead. She arrived five days before a category five hurricane! She lived in paradise for seven years, hosted an award-winning television show and traveled the globe with a government delegation. She also served on the board of directors for Big Brothers Big Sisters and spearheaded a Send a Kid to Camp campaign. Then, she relocated to Washington, D.C. to obtain a teaching certification and instruct 8th grade reading at a high needs middle school. She later returned to her hometown of Pittsburgh, PA to raise her daughter Caitlynn, now 4-years-old. During her 10-month-stint as a stay-at-home mom, Caitlynn inspired her to create this blog, and Diary of a First Time Mom was born on Mother’s Day 2012. Two years later, she expanded the family to include 20+ writers. Currently, Heather serves as the communications director at Allies for Children. In addition, she is the owner of Motor Mouth Multimedia, which ranked #49 in Startup Nation’s Home-Based 100 Competition sponsored by Discover Card and Sam’s Club. Recently, The Pittsburgh Foundation and The Heinz Endowments selected Heather to receive an Emerging Black Artist award to develop Diary of a First Time Mom.

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