Alternative gift market brings local goodness abroad
A steady stream of folks flowed through the tables set up at Marion Community Center on Saturday, as dozens bought gifts they would never see for people they would never meet. Behind each table sat people selling wares they didn’t have for gains they couldn’t benefit from.
An alternative gift market can be a difficult thing to understand.
Alternative Gift International, a Wichita company staffed by three people, organizes gift markets that benefit charities across the globe and at home. Citizens from a given community volunteer to sell trinkets — ornaments and book marks, mostly — in exchange for donations to charities the staff has selected.
The trinkets are more like receipts, however. They remind the purchaser of the donation, which can be to any number of charities.
For Meg Wheeler, her charity of choice was to provide Haitians with goats.
Wheeler sold Christmas ornaments in exchange for donations to Community Coalition for Haiti’s “Pay it Forward with Goats” program, which provides Haitian families with a pregnant goat, from which they can get milk, cheese, and economic relief. The “pay it forward” part of the program comes when families who receive goats, per agreement, give a goat to another family, or sell a goat and donate proceeds to a local cause.
“Anything having to do with animals is pretty much piquing my interest,” Wheeler said.
Wheeler works at Spur Ridge Veterinary Hospital, where co-worker Belinda Skiles offered her the opportunity to volunteer at the gift market.
Other volunteers came from other places. A fifth grade class at Marion Elementary School staffed a booth as part of a community project. An English class from Augusta also helped out with a couple of booths. Event organizer Jackie Volbrecht has a niece in that class.
Overall, the groups raised $7,900 for more than 30 causes. Of that, $1,500 went to five local charities: Families and Communities Together, Circles of Marion County, P.E.O., Marion County Resource Center and Food Bank, and Main Street Ministries.
Those figures don’t include money raised by other causes represented at the gift market, including three charities for which Jamie Driggers of Hillsboro served. Driggers had fair-trade accessories available for purchase to benefit Ergon Handicrafts and Trades of Hope. She also told patrons about Elegantees.
“All three are empowering women out of poverty in some aspect or another,” Driggers said.
Elegantees benefits formerly sex-trafficked women in Nepal, Ergon Handicrafts are made by women from India, and Trades of Hope is more global, representing 22 artisan groups from 16 countries around the world, including the United States.
The event was put on by the missions board of Marion Presbyterian Church. Wheeler said she’d like to attend again.
“I loved talking to people about it, and people were really intrigued by the concept of paying it forward so it was a lot of fun,” she said. “I’ll do it again next year, I think.”