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TARGET LETS SPECIAL FOLKS BEAT CROWDS; SENIORS, DISABLED GET TO SHOP WITHOUT HURRY.

Byline: Sylvia L. Oliande Daily News Staff Writer

Ruby and Julian Meadows, flush from a full morning of Christmas gift shopping for their six grandchildren, clutched the last few toys on their list and made their way to the cash register at the Target store in Simi Valley.

Having been through the store a few days earlier, they knew exactly what they wanted and had the freedom to take their time finding it, even as the holiday rush drew near.

The couple, both 71, and hundreds of other shoppers were taking advantage of a 25-year-old Target tradition.

Employees closed the doors to the public and opened the store to seniors and the disabled for two hours so they could look for gifts, free of the crowds and the frenzy of holiday shopping. They also get a 10 percent discount on merchandise.

``We came because it's just more fun to shop with your peers,'' Ruby Meadows said. ``We can just sit at the tables in the front and talk and catch up. It's a good day to visit with friends.''

She and her husband said the sale really kicks off their holiday - and their early reconnaissance trip allows them to arrive at the store at 8 a.m. with a plan.

That gives them a chance to partake in the other offerings of the morning, such as taking pictures with Santa and his helpers and listening as carolers from nearby White Oak Elementary School sing holiday songs.

Target sent out invitations to more than 60 service groups, schools and senior centers throughout Simi Valley, Moorpark and the Conejo Valley. Event coordinators said the shoppers are pretty well split between seniors and the disabled.

Many shoppers tooled around the store in wheelchairs, saying they were grateful to be able to maneuver in the aisles without the large holiday crowds.

And members of the Association of Retarded Citizens walked around in groups with helpers, picking out jewelry and toys for themselves and for family members.

``It's fun helping the mentally handicapped,'' said Kim Whitney, a Target employee who has coordinated the event for seven years. ``They're very sure of what they want and they certainly know what they don't want.''

A special-education teacher from Garden Grove Elementary School said her students were having a great time on their annual trip to the store to shop for their families, and generally will make a day of it.

``The kids really look forward to this,'' said Linda Panattoni, as some of her students stood in line to take pictures. ``We (special-education teachers) all come out, then do something with the kids after.''

This year, several sixth-graders from White Oak Elementary also helped out in the toy department, ready to assist seniors who were shopping for their grandchildren.

``Some are just looking for ideas, but most of them know what they want,'' said Lauren Wert, 11, as she stood watch over a cart full of Barbie toys. ``And most of the time they know the names, but they pronounce them wrong, so I have to figure out what they mean.''

CAPTION(S):

3 Photos

PHOTO (1--Color) From left, Ellen Gambins helps Tim Hreha and Candice Haywood while they shop.

(2-3--Color) Instructional aides Pat Lotz, above left, and Sandra Blackwell push 11-year-olds Chelsea Leahde, second from left, in a cart during a holiday shopping party Wednesday at the Target store in Simi Valley. Renee Jones, left, pushes Irene Russell's wheelchair while pulling a shopping cart full of toys.

Michael Owen Baker/Daily News
COPYRIGHT 1998 Daily News
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1998, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Dec 3, 1998
Words:586
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