Flossie Hellinger, Winter Park, Florida
For two weekend days every November, the fellowship hall at Winter Park Presbyterian Church in Winter Park, FL is transformed into a "global market" where community members can do their holiday shopping in a way that affirms their values. Over the course of those two days, fifteen vendors collectively sell over $17,000 worth of fairly traded and home-made goods to benefit people internationally and close to home.
It's no small task to put on a sale like this one. Over the course of the year, church members traveling on mission trips purchase craft items such as silver jewelry from Peru to bring back for the sale. Others coordinate with nonprofits locally and beyond and collect donations for a women's shelter, a gleaning program for local farms, and more. In the days before the market, the youth group bakes treats for a bake sale. And of course, members also work with Fair Trade companies to offer gifts that support farmers and artisans around the world. There are four tables full of craft items from SERRV, and an abundance of coffee, tea, cocoa, and chocolate from Equal Exchange. Flossie Hellinger, who organizes the Equal Exchange table, sells about $900 worth of Equal Exchange products at the market each year.
Now in its tenth year, the sale runs like clockwork thanks to some finely-tuned logistics. A few weeks in advance, church members put a sign out in front of the church building and hang flyers in local businesses. They also send flyers in the mail to people who've attended the sale in past years. But, says Hellinger, "people in Winter Park know it's coming" – the sale has become a part of the yearly cycle of the community. When the weekend of the sale arrives, people come from all over the city to purchase holiday gifts they can feel good about. With so many attendees and vendors, the sale itself is also highly structured – shoppers each receive a paper bag, which they fill with their purchases as vendors staple receipts to the outside, each in a different color. They pay at the end, to keep the flow moving through the sale.
The global market is not a fundraiser for the church – in fact, all of the proceeds go to the various nonprofits, artisans, and Fair Traders, and so the church actually spends a small amount of money on set-up costs, which is included in the budget each year. Rather than being money-maker, the market is a way to bring people together: the committed volunteers working within Winter Park Presbyterian to bring the sale to fruition, the community members who come through the doors just this one time every year, and the artisans, farmers, and recipients of services whose lives are touched by the purchases and donations made at the market. "We look forward to it every year," says Hellinger. "It's a lot of fun; it really is."
Try it in your community
You don't need to organize 15 vendors or sell $17,000 worth of products to have a successful holiday market! Here are a few simple ideas that Winter Park Presbyterian and other congregations have found work well:
- Offer variety. Compliment Fair Trade food products from Equal Exchange with Fair Trade crafts, items made by members of your congregation, or opportunities to donate to local nonprofit organizations. The more options you offer, the more shoppers you'll attract.
- Promote beyond your congregation. Everyone needs holiday gifts! – promoting your sale with flyers in local businesses or an ad or article in the local newspaper will help you reach a wider audience.
- Get your community engaged. Winter Park Presbyterian's youth group runs the bake sale, and many members of the congregation staff different tables and help out in other ways. Spreading the work around makes everything easier, and your sale will be more successful when more people feel invested in it.