DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – A Christmas tradition is helping Miami Valley families get ready for the holidays.

Thursday kicked off the Catholic Social Services St. Nick Shoppe, a weekend-long event providing holiday gifts to more than 500 pre-registered families. The brand new toys, clothes, games and other items were all donated by Dayton-area churches, schools and individuals.

“It’s just amazing to see people’s holiday spirit and the giving mood that they all get into. It’s just a real blessing for our entire community,” said Mike Lehner, the marketing director for Catholic Social Services.

Dayton resident Kathy O’Banion has been receiving holiday help from the organization since she took custody of her three young grandchildren more than a decade ago.

“I’m very grateful, very thankful,” O’Banion said. “I couldn’t ask for anything better.”

For the first time in its holiday giving tradition, Catholic Social Services is allowing families to pick out their own gifts from aisles of items categorized by age, gender and preference. The goal is to give the shoppers a sense of dignity.

“It allows them to feel like they’ve played a role in making their kids’ Christmas possible,” Lehner explained.

This year’s St. Nick Shoppe is happening over a three-day span, from Thursday through Saturday at St. Benedict the Moor Catholic Church in Dayton. Families must have already pre-registered to be eligible for the event.

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