By Jamie A. Hunt

Parents stood outside in the cold or around a fire, drinking hot chocolate or coffee and sometimes munching on fresh pieces of delicious homemade Mexican bread as early as 6:15 a.m. on Dec. 3 as their children waited in line to enter the First Southern Baptist Church in Farmersville for the Exeter Fossils Christmas Store at 8 a.m.

Some of the kids waiting outside with parents were so little that they were too scared to go into the building alone and stayed outside. Parents were not allowed inside for the children-only shopping experience but were treated to refreshments provided by the men's ministry of the church, who donated use of the recreation building for the children's store.

&#8220This is a very good touch of Jesus for the community,” said Pastor Francisco Mendoza.

This store has been arranged and coordinated by the Fossils, a non-profit group, for the past 10 years. A place where children can find presents for their whole family spending as little as 5 cents up to a $1 per gift.

&#8220The children were bound and determined to buy presents,” said Barbara Fowler, Fossils director and coordinator.

Children went into the Christmas bazaar and were greeted by Narce Ozuna, of Healthy Start, Farmersville who helped them get started with their shopping by assigning them a personal shopper. Santa handed out candy canes while volunteer Farmersville High School students helped to gather children's gifts and carry their boxes while helping them keep track of expenditures.

Some of the most popular gifts seemed to be pretty glittery wreaths, toy stuffed animals, boxes with toy cars, dolls, vases of flowers, candles, pencils.

So many of the children with their boxes filled with gifts were so excited and proud to shop without Mom and Dad; making their own decisons for gifts and paying for them with their own money, a very empowering experience. The presents were then wrapped for the children and they were finished with their shopping experience, unless they decided to go back and buy more!

&#8220We all had fun buying presents,” said Umberto Macias, with his three sisters, who were having all their presents wrapped by high school students.

All gift items were donated from the Nazarene Church in Ivanhoe, Walmart, and many indivuals. Donations start in January for next December's gift bazaar. All wrapping paper is purchased at the end of the year by the Fossils and used to wrap children's gifts. There are anywhere from 250 children to 400 children each year at the bazaar; buying anywhere from 10 to 45 gifts.”If kids come in with no money, they still shop, no one is turned away. It's Christmas time,” said Fowler. The money goes to service projects in other areas such as Porterville, Orosi, Parlier.

&#8220Kids need an ego boost, to come in without Mom and Dad, and shop on their own; you can see the pride in their faces when they walk out with a load of wrapped presents,” Fowler said.

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