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Toy shop owner Gary Grant – who turned his warehouse into a distribution centre for foodbanks during the early 2020 Covid-19 lockdown – is now preparing to distribute hope to families in the run-up to Christmas.

‘In a time of crisis, we can use what we have to make a difference in the world that we live in,’ said Gary Grant, founder and owner of The Entertainer toy shop chain, when he spoke recently on HOPE Together’s Talking HOPE chat show. 

During spring lockdown, The Entertainer warehouse, normally filled with toys, was repurposed to store food for foodbanks across the country, to address the ‘tsunami’ of need. In just 10 weeks, the warehouse staff handled nine million meals’ worth of food. Throughout that time, Gary worked from home, both coordinating the management of the food storage and keeping the business running amidst the challenges of lockdown.

Gary’s Christian faith plays an important role in how he manages his business. His toy shops don’t open on Sundays, and he is particularly aware of the responsibility he has to his staff in these challenging times. ‘When I pray about the business, I don’t know what prayers the Lord answers that I don’t pray, because it’s amazing how some things just don’t go wrong and you just don’t notice it!’ he said. He believes that God always honours the decision to follow him. ‘If you do things with the right motive, God is trustworthy, and will do what God chooses to do.’

That belief has also shaped Gary’s decisions to share the Christmas message of hope through his business. Last year all the branches of The Entertainer gave away copies of HOPE Together’s Christmas magazine and a Bible Society children’s booklet retelling the Nativity story. This year, they will give away a new Happyland Christmas Story booklet, which uses the Early Learning Centre’s popular Happyland characters to tell the familiar story. The booklet, also available from HOPE Together’s online shop includes a QR code, which links to an accompanying animation of the Nativity story on HOPE Together’s YouTube channel @HopeTogetherUK

‘This all of a sudden makes it relevant for children, because they’ll watch it because they know the characters,’ said Gary. ‘It’s not a churchy thing anymore, so we get over that barrier…We have the opportunity of presenting the true meaning of Christmas to children up and down the country.’

As well as the Happyland Christmas Story booklet, The Entertainer shops will be giving away copies of ‘HOPE at Christmas’, a giveaway magazine published by HOPE Together as a conversation-starter. It is bright and engaging, and aims to share hope with people who are not yet Christians, with stories of celebrity faith and inspiring testimonies.

Both the booklet and the magazine are available to buy in the HOPE Together online shop. As Gary said, ‘Let’s just pray that those books, that will end up in the hands of children this Christmas, will have real meaning, not only to the children but also to their parents and their grandparents.’ 

Roy Crowne, from HOPE Together says, ‘We are thrilled to be giving the booklet and magazine to The Entertainer’s customers. The booklet, magazine and Happyland Christmas Story video could also help churches reach out to families in villages, towns or cities this Christmas as we make the most of this season to make Jesus known?’

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