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Norfolk Residents Help Those in Need While Helping Themselves

Alternative Gift Market returns to town this holiday season


By Kelly Kandra Hughes

Looking for more meaningful holiday gifts this Christmas? After a hiatus of several years, the Alternative Gift Market returns to Norfolk’s Church of Christ during coffee hour (approximately 11 a.m. to noon) on Sunday, December 3, and Sunday, December 10. This market offers those who are looking to give gifts of the heart this holiday season a variety of options to meet all their gift giving needs while helping those in need at the same time.

“People missed it,” said Tina Olsen, one of the organizers of the market. “We haven’t had it for a few years and decided now was a good time to bring it back. It’s such a great opportunity for people to support organizations and everyone likes to receive gifts that help others.”

These sentiments were echoed by Olivia Olsen, Tina’s daughter. She’ll be representing Heifer International, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to end poverty and hunger while building community relationships. “The Alternative Gift Market will help raise money. One simple gift can change a whole village.” Through the Heifer International gift catalog, people will be able donate an animal to a village, promote women’s empowerment, support sustainable farming, fund a project, or provide basic support to those in need.

In addition to offering donation-based gifts, the Alternative Gift Market features goods whose sales directly support local and global organizations. For example, The Burkina Faso Girls’ Scholarship Fund (BFGSF) will be selling shea butter that is sustainably harvested and handcrafted using eco-friendly and organic practices in Burkino Faso, Africa. According to Beth Knight, PhD, and director of BFGSF, “Many families in Burkino Faso cannot afford school tuition or fees, which are about $100 per year for high school. Or, they can only afford to send one child to school, which is often a son. The high school graduation rate is much lower for girls, making education a missed opportunity for independence and employment. The Shea4She butter is a great way for people to contribute to our scholarship fund while crossing an item off their Christmas shopping list.”

Several members of the Norfolk church will also be selling handmade goods. Eve Thew will have Christmas-themed potholders available and Leona Alley will be offering knit hats. There will even be a Christmas cactus from Barbara Moeckel, courtesy of her private collection. All profits from these sales will benefit the church’s Minister’s Discretionary Fund, which allows the pastor to provide help for people from the church or the Norfolk community who have become overwhelmed with financial or other material needs.

The Alternative Gift Market also offers individuals and families the opportunity to participate in Angel Tree Gift giving. Each ornament on the Angel Tree provides details about a child in need, such as gender and age. Select an ornament, shop for the child, and then return wrapped gifts to the church by December 17.

Participating in the Alternative Gift Market can be a positive experience for everyone involved. “These are pretty cool gifts,” said Olivia Olsen. Her mother agrees, “Many of us don’t need extra things, but it’s nice to know we’ve been a part of helping someone else.”

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