SIDNEY — The Holy Angels Catholic Church Parish Outreach Committee will host its fourth annual Christmas Boutique, Saturday, Nov. 19, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., in the Ross Historical Center, 201 N. Main Ave.
“This is not a craft sale,” said organizer Judy Zimmerman, of Sidney. The boutique will feature fair trade items from 32 countries, arts and crafts created by S&H Products associates in the Spirit and Hand Art Studio, fair trade roasted coffee and Esther Price chocolate-covered coffee beans sold by Trinity Church of the Brethren, Mother Brunner Bread and a bake sale. There will also be a raffle.
Admission is free. Cash and checks will be accepted as payment for purchases.
“This is different from other Christmas boutiques in that we do not profit from the sale. Others do,” Zimmerman said. All the proceeds from product sales support fair trade producers around the world. Bake sale proceeds are used to purchase supplies for the committee’s service days during which dresses and shorts are made for children in impoverished countries.
The committee purchases the products from nonprofit organizations, SERRV, based in New Windsor, Maryland, and Equal Exchange, based in Portland, Oregon. Both organizations develop partnerships with farmers and artisans and make their products available in fair trade beyond the borders where the producers live.
“Artisans in over 32 marginalized areas participate in democratic co-ops in order to have more selling power,” Zimmerman said. “SERRV and Equal Exchange buy the products which are then sold at consignment and community sales. There is no middle man. The artisans and farmers involved receive just wages instead of a CEO or president of a company receiving huge wages.”
The Sidney sale will include Christmas decorations, home decor, scarves, jewelry, bird hourses, baskets, puzzles, coffee, tea, soup, chocolate and more. The items are handmade and many are unique.
“What I most look forward to is seeing how the artistic (ideas) of these people from so many countries are created by them to attempt to make a living for themselves and their families,” said Gail Clark, of Maplewood, another organizer. “The colors, the weaves, the designs are all so unique and started in these little villages and catch the eyes of the big city designers and are soon seen in our catalogs at home. The quality of the products is top of the line. Department store quality.”
“I am in awe of these people:” added committee member Elizabeth Edwards, of Sidney, “their resourcefulness and cleverness in making these items. I personally look forward to what new things are made by these ingenious people.”
The committee sets no goal for sales. Whatever is raised covers the costs of the goods and shipping.
As the event has grown, the committee appreciates that more and more people here are recognizing and appreciating what fair trade is, according to committee member Jeanne Schlagetter, of Sidney.
“Making people knowledgeable is an important goal. I find their excitement encouraging,” she said.
In general, fair trade is a business model that seeks to maximize benefits to farmers and artists instead of profits to investors. It is based on 10 principles:
• Long-term relationships with democratically-run, small, farmer co-ops based on dialogue, transparency and respect.
• Payment of a minimum, fair price, which is always higher than the international market price.
• Ensuring advance credit is given when needed.
• Payment of a social premium for community projects.
• Transparent finances and business practices.
• Sustainable agricultural practices.
• Ensuring no child or enforced labor is used to produce the products.
• Commitment to nondiscrimination, gender equity and freedom of association.
• Ensuring good working conditions.
• Providing organizational capacity-building.
“We do the best we can to spread the message that this is a powerful opportunity to make a difference in the world. Knowing that we are helping to bring some peace and justice and better lives for the creators of the products makes this all worthwhile. We are helping people to educate their kids and live healthier lives, besides empowering women and bringing hope and dignity to the families,” Zimmerman said.
She added that Christmas shoppers at the boutique purchase gifts that give twice.
“Once to the creator of the products and secondly to the recipient of the gift,” she said.
Schlagetter agrees. What the boutique does, she noted, is “offer an opportunity to live in closer solidarity with people who are marginalized. It also provides quality handcrafted products that are not widely available elsewhere in this area.”
In addition to the Nov. 19 boutique, the fair trade products will be sold by the committee after all Masses at Holy Angels Church, Dec. 3-4 and from a booth at the Miami Valley Centre Mall in Piqua, Dec. 9-10. The bake sale will continue after Holy Angels Masses, Nov. 19-20.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4824.