WATERLOO, Iowa --- The seconds on the scoreboard clock started ticking down as the 30 shoppers entered the gym.
A line of personal shoppers, dressed in red so they were easily visible, waited to greet them. The volunteers spent the first minutes explaining the rules of the spree. Each shopper then had the remaining minutes --- only 10 were given in total --- to select their four gifts.
The Christmas store, sponsored by the Boys & Girls Club of Black Hawk County, Orchard Hill Church and Harvest Vineyard Church, provided a Christmas shopping experience for 400 local families, said Chuck Rowe, the club's executive director.
Church members donated more than 1,700 toys, some of which were packaged with others to make larger gift baskets. The families were found through local schools and invited to attend.
The name-brand toys were priced between $2 and $5.
"It's great because the parents get to choose the presents for their kids and then put the gifts under the tree," said Laura Hoy, director of missional engagement at Orchard Hill.
While their parents were shopping, kids could participate in a holiday craft fair at Harvest Vineyard Church where volunteers helped them make and wrap homemade gift items for their family members.
Friends Roberta Gary and Laika Burt said they would have braved just about any weather to get to the store Saturday morning. And for good reason --- within seconds of walking into the gym, Gary found the one thing her 8-year-old son had been hoping for. That gift, along with three others, were neatly tucked into a shopping bag as she left the club.
"This was definitely worth it," she said.
"I can get like one or two other things, maybe some clothes or gloves, and be done," said Burt, who has four children from ages 9 through 20.
Gary said even though they weren't the first ones through the line, the selection was still amazing and included everything from Toy Story action figures to remote-control cars and mp3 players.
Hoy said other name-brand gifts, like Fisher-Price toys and GeoTrax sets, were still hidden away under the tables so all shoppers had the opportunity to pick from the "good" gifts.
"This is just wonderful. It is a great blessing to all of us who need a little extra help to make the holidays a little more enjoyable," said Martha Real, who has four children between the ages of 2 and 17. "It's truly a blessing."
All proceeds from the event will go back to the Boys & Girls Club and the schools who sent families to the event.