Alternative Gift Market brings out the holiday spirit in young and old

Staff writer

People young and old filled the Marion City Building to learn about local and worldwide charities being featured at the Alternative Gift Market. Together the charity booths raised more than $9,000 for around 20 charities.

“I’ve always known this was a generous community, but I was blown away by the amount raised,” event coordinator Jackie Volbrecht said. “Our first year, two years ago, we raised $4,000, last year, $7,000. It’s just remarkable.”

Youth groups, non-profit groups, and individuals made homemade ornaments and explained to attendees about the charities they represented.

“People were given a packet of information to read and review before the market that explained what their charity did, who it helped, and how the money donated would be spent,” Volbrecht said.

Charities represented ranged from providing safe orphanages to Mexican children to hugging grandmas in China. The ornaments were as different as the individual charities. While all were handmade, some, like Phoebe Janzen’s had practical applications by being seed packets, filled with seeds from various flowers from the Florence Community Garden. One group that was raising money for farmers in Africa, had glass ball ornaments filled with popcorn.

Other ornaments were more decorative, like Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Marion, who stitched and stuffed mini owls out of Christmas and zebra print fabric.

Paula Barta of Marion and owner of Spring Ranch Pottery used her pottery skills to make her ornaments. Her charity was raising money to build houses for people who lost theirs in the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. She chose to represent the charity because of her previous connection with the project.

“I’ve been to Haiti and took part in a house building project,” she said. “I built a connection with the community and saw firsthand the need for what this charity is doing. It’s sad that so many years later there are still people homeless from this disaster.”

Her ornament reflected Haiti by being the colors of the sand and sea. A small seashell and “Haiti” were inscribed on them. Her booth also featured a model of what a house built by the charity would look like.

“It’s just a simple structure, made mostly of cinderblocks, but it makes all the difference to someone who lost everything in the earthquake,” she said.

Judy Priest of Marion also had a personal connection with her charity that helped the people of Zimbabwe.

“My church, Eastmoor United Methodist Church, sponsors churches in the country,” she said. “I thought it was a good time in with our church’s mission and to help the country in need.”

She said the connection went deeper with Zimbabwe after a member of the church went on a mission in the country and fell in love with a local.

“She came home and brought him home with her,” Priest said. “We want him to see that people here want to help his country.”

Local charities were also represented as well. They were: Big Brothers and Big Sisters, Circles of Marion County, Main Street Ministries, and P.E.O.

All the money raised by those charities will be used to help people living in Marion County, such as P.E.O, where the money raised will be awarded to a Marion County high school girl for college.

Tabor student Yvonne Hachtigal said she was most excited about the local charities. She and a friend traveled from Hillsboro to Marion for the market after attending a similar market elsewhere.

“I went to a market last year and it was not what I expected,” she said. “I thought it was such a good idea and so when I heard about the one here from a friend I decided to check it out.”

The duo walked away with five different ornaments from different charities. Both said at least one of their ornaments were for a local charity.

“It’s important to help the community you live in,” Hachtigal said.

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