Giving all around at Alternative Gift Market

Staff writer

Several local charities, businesses, churches, and people are pulling together and asking Marion County residents to consider giving a different kind of gift for Christmas this year.

Patrons of the third annual Alternative Gift Market from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 9 at the Marion City Building can donate to a charity in a loved one’s name to share holiday spirit with those in need.

“It’s a way for people to do something good for someone else, and take care of their Christmas shopping,” event coordinator Jackie Volbrecht said. “You can either donate for yourself or for someone you love.”

The gift market works like this; local churches, groups, or people volunteer to run a booth at the market for one of 36 charities. Booths this year will be run by Circles of Hope, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, First Mennonite Brethren Church, and Eastmoor United Methodist Church, to name a few. Those running the booths must create a handmade ornament based on the charity they represent.

Those who attend the market and donate to a certain charity will receive the ornament representing that charity to give as a gift or hang on their own trees.

“The ornaments are so cool, some people have some great ideas,’ Volbrecht said. “The ornaments can be silly, big, small, and as ornate as each group wants. Each must have either information about the charity on it or the name.”

Volbrecht’s favorite ornaments from previous years include an ornament made by Marion Girl Scouts. The ornament is a plate, which says one and seven people go to bed hungry worldwide on it with a little silver plastic fork and spoon on either side.

Volbrecht said her grandkids’ Christmas trees as well as hers is covered with such ornaments.

“The first year they were like really Grandma? Now they look forward to seeing what charity and who I’ve helped in their name,” Volbrecht said.

There are 400 similar markets held around the country that will donate around $40,000 to each of the charities, Volbrecht said.

“Charities are chosen by a panel and 100 percent of the money must go to actual projects, and not administrative costs,” she said. “This means all your money will go to helping the people you’ve donated the money to. I feel better knowing my money goes to them and not some executive.”

This year’s charities include chicks and seed for impoverished farming families in Ethiopia, food for American or Canadian children, vaccinations for children in India, preserving the rainforest in South America, safe homes for orphans in Mexico, and dozens of others. Volbrecht said this is the main or only fundraising opportunity for the charities.

A food court will be hosted by Sharon’s Rollin’ Kitchen of Peabody, where people can donate the change from their meal to Marion County Emergency Food Bank. Café Justo will be providing fair trade market coffee to drink and sell. Funds from bottles of water sold at the event will go toward hand-dug wells in Uganda.

“It’s a great way to give something special, to get to learn about those less fortunate, and what a way to be able to give this time of the year,” Volbrecht said.

Booth sponsor Carolann McFarland has been participating in the event since its founding. She said she has the best time looking through the charities and coming up with creative ornaments to represent them.

Her charity is called Rabbits, Bees, and Trees, and they provide those items to residents of Haiti still recovering from the 2010 earthquake.

“I’m going to have a live rabbit at our booth for people to pet, and honey sticks to sample,” she said.

She is working on a way to tie all three items into one ornament.

“I’ve got a few ideas, and a trip to Hobby Lobby planned for this weekend,” she said.

McFarland said she always leaves with at least 10 new ornaments to put on her own tree.

“It’s a win, win, win,” she said. “Apart from being a great way to give, it’s a unique gift that everyone will feel good about,” she said.

 

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