Linda Roby traveled to Bethlehem four years ago. Her guide, Wisam Salsaa, mentioned, as an aside, that he crafted carvings out of olive wood.
She went to his family shop — who can pass up that kind of side trip? — and stayed in touch once she returned home to her life as associate minister at First United Methodist Church in downtown Dallas.
Now you can buy those olive wood carvings, sans the flight to the Holy Land. Salsaa ships them to Roby's church each year for its FirstGives holiday market.
This time of year, you’ll see such markets popping up around your neighborhood, often at your local Methodist church. The general idea is that a group of nonprofits — local and international — gather to tell you their story, offer up Fair Trade artisan wares, and hand you a card explaining your gift of a donation. The money goes to the nonprofit, not the church.
Examples: Napkins made by brutalized women at the Congo Restoration sewing school in the Democratic Republic of Congo; a $20 donation to Emanuel Community Center downtown to feed a family of five for a week; a scarf made by women with The She (Struggle, Hope, Empowerment) Project in Pakistan to raise women and children out of oppression; and a $10 Working to Empower sponsorship to send a child to school for a year in Tanzania.
You get the picture.
The gifts “have a story to tell,” says Natalie Traylor, manager of the recently opened Ten Thousand Villages Fort Worth store. Ten Thousand Villages is a mainstay at alternative holiday markets, offering Fair Trade products from around the world. The nonprofit is an early pioneer of the global Fair Trade movement. Founder Edna Ruth Byler began by selling handcrafted items from Puerto Rico out of the trunk of her car.
These local markets are a step up from that. And sometimes there are church-lady pies.
Alternative Gifts Fair at Denton First United Methodist Church: This will be the church’s 25th year to hold the market, raising more than $26,000 last year for nonprofit organizations. Those featured at this year’s Fair include Heifer International, Ten Thousand Villages, Bill Crouch Community Garden, First Meal, and artisan items from Guatemala. Free admission, except for “First Pick Friday,” which is $5 admission. Friday, 5-9 pm; Saturday, 9 am-3 pm; Sunday, 9 am-1 pm.
Global Village Market at Greenland Hills United Methodist Church: Food trucks and adoptable dogs from EARS (Education and Animal Rescue Society) are new at this East Dallas church’s sixth annual market, for which I am co-chair. Other nonprofits include Ten Thousand Villages; World Vision; Habitat for Humanity; Shared Housing Center; and artisan goods from Uganda, El Salvador, Palestine, Pakistan, Democratic Republic of Congo and Panama. Homemade pies all weekend. Saturday, 10 am-4 pm; Sunday, noon-3 pm.
Alternative Gift Market at Custer Road United Methodist Church: Offerings at this Plano Market include homemade tamales, Heifer International, Juntos Servimos Mexico/Texas Border Mission, Holy Land artisans, Imagine No Malaria and SERRV (Fair Trade products from artisans around the world). Last year, the market raised $31,500. Sunday, 8 am-12:30 pm.
International Christmas Market at First United Methodist Church Richardson: Nonprofits include Clean Water/Water Wells, Maua Methodist Hospital in Kenya, Imagine no Malaria, Fair Trade coffee, chocolate and jams. Free admission, except for Friday, 6-9 pm, for “First Choice Night.” $5 admission includes hors d’ oeuvre. Saturday, 10 am-4 pm; Sunday, 8:30 am-1 pm.
FirstGifts at First United Methodist Church: This downtown church is holding its third market this year, hoping all those new downtown residents — and visitors to the new Klyde Warren Park — will stop by. You’ll find 15 booths of nonprofits, including Wisam Salsaa’s olive wood carvings from the Holy Land. Sunday, 8:30 am-1 pm.
Chi Omega Christmas Market: A different animal than its Methodist counterparts, this market still strives to do more than increase our consumer spending stats. For the past 35 years, Chi Omega alums in Dallas have raised $6.3 million for 100 or so area nonprofits. You buy cool stuff; the Chi Os send the cash. This year’s beneficiaries include Genesis Women’s Shelter, Make-A-Wish Foundation of North Texas, Friends of Wednesday’s Child and CONTACT Crisis Line. Tickets: $12-$20. First call preview: Thursday, 9:30 am to 1 pm. Thursday, 1-9 pm; Friday, 10 am-6 pm; Saturday, 10 am to 5 pm.
Sharing the Joy of Christmas, First United Methodist Church of Keller: Fair-traded goods from artisans around the world — scarves, jewelry, olive oil soap, baskets, chocolate, coffee and children’s toys. Nonprofits include Habitat for Humanity, Ten Thousand Villages, Congo Restoration (supporting women and children in the Democratic Republic of Congo), Mission Design (artisan items from Guatemala), Working to Empower (sending children to school in Africa). Saturday, 10 am-5 pm; Sunday, 9 am-1 pm.
White Rock Local Holiday Market: The festive version of this twice-monthly market adds arts and crafts vendors to its usual food repertoire. Last year’s vendors included La Alicia (jewelry and accessories made from junk mail, magazines, wrapping paper and catalogs) and Sanford’s Vintage Bicycles (restored gems you can ride home). Saturday, 9 am-3 pm.