Nibras Fakhri (center), of Everett, picks out presents for her children with the help of volunteer Stephanie Myers (left) at the annual Christmas House holiday gift giveaway in Everett on Friday, Dec. 2. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

Donated gifts at Christmas House make holiday merrier for kids

EVERETT — The family of four left Iraq three years ago and moved into a home in south Everett.

Nibras Fahkri, 35, is a doctor. Her husband is a anesthesiologist.

Fahkri passed her certification exams allowing her to practice medicine in the United States.

She and her husband are on job hunts.

So far they’ve had no luck.

Fahkri volunteers at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett in the meantime.

With December well on its way, the couple needed help playing Santa this year. Their two children — Zainab, 5, and Abdullah, 6 — are hoping to find presents under their Christmas tree.

A friend told Fahkri about Christmas House.

The nonprofit converts the gym at the Everett Boys and Girls Club into a holiday-themed gift shop every year. All of the presents are donated from people in the community or purchased by the organization with grant funds.

Christmas House expects to provide presents to 8,500 children from 3,000 low-income families this holiday season.

Shoppers are paired up with a volunteer. Together they walk from table to table looking through sidewalk chalk sets, baby dolls and headphones. Parents can choose gifts for each child at no cost, as well as a present for the entire family.

Fahkri smiled when she talked about her kids finding out Santa had visited their home on Christmas Eve.

Her cart quickly began filling with My Little Pony toys, knit hats, stuffed animals and books. Fahkri found a book with a yellow bird on the cover for Abdullah. He is curious about birds.

Zainab likes Elsa and Anna, characters from the movie “Frozen.” When she watches the movie, she sings along to the soundtrack with a fake microphone.

Angela Almelia, another shopper, has 11 children. Most of them are grown.

She was picking out gifts for her 15-year-old daughter and a 17-year-old son who still live at home.

“Their dad died a few years back. This means a lot to them,” Almelia said. “If we didn’t come to Christmas House, we wouldn’t have presents. It’s too expensive.”

Another shopper loaded her arms with stuffed animals: an elephant, a dinosaur and a frog.

It took more than 800 volunteers to make this possible between hanging wreaths to organizing 10-foot-tall stacks of boxes packed with donated toys.

Many have been volunteering for years.

“Once we get people here, they stay,” said Gregg Milne, president of the board of directors at Christmas House.

He began volunteering three years ago after he retired from the Snohomish County Public Utility District.

“I’ve had a good life, good job. It’s my time to give back,” Milne said.

Caitlin Tompkins: 425-339-3192;

About Christmas House

Christmas House is open through Dec. 17, Tuesday through Saturday.

Shoppers are asked to bring proof of their identity and household income, among other information.

Those with disabilities are welcome to call 425-338-2273 to schedule an appointment.

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