Shawnee chiropractor gives back to Johnson County Christmas Bureau
J.J. Schmidt thought the hard part was over.
He had just graduated from Kansas City, Mo.‘s Cleveland Chiropractic College on top of previously finishing his undergraduate studies at Missouri State.
At the time, his son was five and his daughter was an infant and he was ready to start focusing on practicing in the Kansas City area.
And then the holidays rolled around.
“We had no money at all and my wife couldn’t work,” Schmidt said.
The letter from the Johnson County Christmas Bureau, a nonprofit whose ties to the area date back 50 years, couldn’t have then arrived at a better time.
Inside the envelope was an advertisement for its Holiday Shop, an annual charity in which disadvantaged families can make appointments to visit a nine-day shop where donated items are available, ensuring each of them can put something under the tree.
“We didn’t expect to have Christmas at the time,” Schmidt said.
Aside from toys for kids, cleaning supplies and winter clothing also line the shelves of a donated business space. This year, the Johnson County Christmas Bureau expects its 35th annual shop — which opened Friday inside Olathe’s Great Mall of the Great Plains — to serve more than 12,500 low-income Johnson County residents with the aim of making a difference in the lives of about 3,500 families.
Schmidt now practices at Hammond Chiropractic Center in Shawnee, which he represents at Chamber of Commerce meetings and through volunteering efforts during the Oceans of Mercy Run and Old Shawnee Days.
It was during a Chamber meeting where he met Karen Boyd, toy department chairman of the Johnson County Christmas Bureau and a Chamber ambassador, roughly eight years after the nonprofit helped his family.
Soon he put the pieces together and realized it was the same organization that conduction the shop where his wife, Jeanne Schmidt, grabbed gifts that holiday season.
He later got to talking with more people connected to the Johnson County Christmas Bureau and realized just how prevalent hard times are in an area with a longstanding reputation for affluence. Schmidt realized how many other moms and dads became humbled by economic hardship, that so many others face the challenges his family once faced and that many do so on a yearly basis.
So this year J.J., Jeanne and their son, Jenisson (now 13), and daughter Harmony (8) are giving back. Schmidt said he and Jeanne have since explained to their children how the organization once helped the family. Jenisson’s Mickey Mouse Yahtzee came from the Holiday Shop. So did the tan fleece sweater with the snowflake on it that J.J. wore in so many holiday family photos.
For the Schmidts, wrapped packages took a new meaning since that Holiday Shop eight years ago.
“We wanted to make it exciting,” J.J. Schmidt said. “But wanted to show that it was not just a toy, but a gift — a piece of our heart that we wanted to give them.”
During the 9-day shop, which ends Dec. 11, items can be placed at one of 50 donation barrels throughout Johnson County. The organization’s wish list includes winter clothing items like gloves and sweatshirts, basketballs, footballs, soccer balls, bedding, small kitchen appliances and personal care items. It has since asked for more winter coat donations, as it initially only had 5,000 available to a possible 12,500 Holiday Shoppers.
A complete list of drop-off sites can be found online.
Remaining dates for the Holiday Shop are: Dec. 6-9 from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Dec. 10 from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Financial contributions are also being accepted by the Johnson County Christmas Bureau, online at jccb.org or via checks payable to JCCB, P.O. Box 14786, Lenexa, KS 66285.
Those with questions or wishing to volunteer can call 913-341-4342 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Stephen Montemayor