Holiday pop-up shop rewards homeless who've gotten off the street

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Like most of America's retailers, with just two days before Christmas, the aisles of the Institute for Human Services' holiday store are packed with people in search of the perfect holiday gift.

"I have dolls for my girls, and my oldest girl, she likes crafts," said Javeta Cornelius. "And slippers, you can never go wrong with that."

On Friday morning, staff members transformed the IHS garage into a department store. For the fifth-consecutive year, families who have either just gotten off the street and into shelters or have recently found rental housing have been able to get a few Christmas items out of the way.

All of the gifts that were displayed on the IHS tables had been donated, and each shopper chose a present for someone in their family and had it wrapped for free.

Cornelius is shopping for her children – the young mother recently spent two months on the street and is just getting back onto her feet.

"It's always good to be able to give your kids something to feel good, coming from you as a parent," said Cornelius.

Officials say 66 families took part in today's event. The shelter's executive director says it's a way to reward people who've made the choice to end their homelessness.

"I want them to know that there are people who really care. It's not just IHS, it's the whole community and when you make that decision there are people there who want to wrap you in love and care," said Connie Mitchell.

For Leiana Devera, this is a Christmas she'll remember. Her family recently left IHS and moved into their own place.

"Having a roof over our heads, especially over my daughters... It's a blessing," said Devera.

Today, they were one of several families invited back so they wouldn't have to spend precious rent money on Christmas gifts.

"The smile on my daughter's face... Oh my goodness," said Devera. "We're in a store full of toys."

The staff at IHS are already planning next year's pop-up holiday shop.

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