Santa Claus collects gifts at charity-focused cash mob

November 27, 2012

By Warren Kagarise

Al Krush returns as Santa Claus for a charity-focused cash mob Dec. 5 at Gilman Village’s White Horse Toys. File

Santa Claus is coming to town — to a cash mob, to be exact.

The next cash mob is due to descend on Gilman Village’s White Horse Toys on Dec. 5, just in time for the pre-Christmas rush. The event is meant to reflect the holiday spirit, because organizers asked cash mob participants to purchase something for themselves, and something extra for charity.

In a cash mob, a group of people descends on a business to buy, buy, buy. The destination is revealed through social media services. Then, the mob pops up at the business to browse and shop.

The 20- and 30-something business leaders in the Issaquah Chamber of Commerce — Young Issaquah Professionals, or YIPPIES for short — modeled the cash mob on similar events elsewhere.

The concept for the upcoming cash mob is BOGO — buy one, give one — and customers can donate toys to the Wounded Warrior Project. The toys then go to children of military personnel killed or wounded in action.

“I’m really excited that it’s going to give people an opportunity to go play around in Gilman Village a little bit” and benefit a charity, YIPPIES Chairwoman Audrey Slade said.

White Horse Toys is offering a 20 percent discount for toys purchased and donated to the Wounded Warrior Project.

Shoppers can also pose for photos with Santa Claus — or Santa Al, a Kris Kringle dedicated to aiding local charities.

How to help

Issaquah Cash Mob

  • 10 a.m. Dec. 5
  • White Horse Toys
  • 317 N.W. Gilman Blvd., No. 13
  • Organizers encourage participants to BOGO — buy one, give one — to benefit the Wounded Warrior Project.
  • Find clues about cash mob locations and learn more about the Young Issaquah Professionals at www.facebook.com/ YoungIssaquahProfessionals.

Al Krush is Santa Al — not just a guy in a fur-trimmed suit for the stretch from Thanksgiving to Christmas, but a bona fide Father Christmas.

Krush, a Renton resident and Issaquah High School graduate, does not need a red suit to resemble Kris Kringle. In real life, Krush sports a crinkly-eyed smile and a beard as snowy as a cotton ball.

Krush calls on abused children, disabled adults and hospitalized veterans throughout the holiday season.

The store — a destination for toys, games, puzzles and crafts designed to educate and entertain — is a major attraction for children at Gilman Village. White Horse Toys packs more than 17,000 offerings into 3,000 square feet.

Organizers said customers can also partake in a Christmastime-in-a-toy-store atmosphere — a festive setting for a cash mob.

The planned event is the latest effort to use a cash mob to give back to the community.

In August, cash mob participants stuffed backpacks with school supplies for children in the Issaquah Food & Clothing Bank’s Tools for Schools program. The effort collected enough school supplies for 1,000 children.

Then, on Nov. 17, a cash mob descended on Champion Grocery, as organizers urged shoppers to purchase items for the food bank.

Nathan Perea, a chamber executive and YIPPIES founder, said the backpack collection added the philanthropic element to events focused on boosting local businesses.

“We just saw the amount of success and energy that that produced, and so we figured we’d build on that,” he said. “It just mixes nicely with the support of a local merchant and the support of a good cause at the same time. We have so many philanthropic-minded people in our community that it just seemed like a good fit.”

Debra Lewis, White Horse Toys manager, said the cash mob could entice additional customers into the store. Motorists along Northwest Gilman Boulevard sometimes overlook the Gilman Village store, she said.

“I don’t think people realize how big our store is from the outside,” Lewis said. “We have people drive by and say, ‘Oh, I’ve never come in. I’ve driven by a number of times,’ and then they come in and they go, ‘Wow! It’s a lot bigger than we thought it was.’”

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