Alternative Gift Market offers shopping alternative

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Non-profit donations, other products can be purchased for holidays

By Beth Herrinton-Hodge

The second weekend in November is usually a busy one for Shelby County residents and friends. There are abundant options available to kickoff the holiday season, from the downtown Christmas tree lighting, to craft fairs and street parties.

One event offers a twist on the traditional holiday shopping extravaganza by offering less-tangible gift-giving options.

The Alternative Gift Market, hosted by First Presbyterian Church, is a gathering of representatives from non-profit service agencies at which shoppers can purchase donations that are given directly to the agencies.

The Alternative Gift Market is open to the public from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday in the fellowship hall of First Presbyterian Church, at 647 Main St. in Shelbyville. A pancake breakfast will begin the morning, and that’s open to the public, too.

Local groups such as the Dorman Center and Shelby Prevention, Arriba Ninos, Operation Care, A Place to Sleep and the Shelby County Humane Society set up tables with information about their programs as well as opportunities to donate to support their services.

National and international groups are also represented at the gift market. The Heifer Project gives farm animals to families in remote villages across the globe. Equal Exchange chocolates and Fair Trade coffee are available for sale, with profits going to the farmers who grow and harvest the cocoa and coffee beans.

Future Hope Ministries is a local agency founded by Dr. Laura White and her family to support orphanages and abandoned children of Uganda. Dr. White will sell handmade beads, jewelry, hair bows and hats to raise funds for Future Hope Ministries.

“We started AGM in 2006 to give people alternative gift=giving opportunities,” organizer Libby Pollett  said. “So many people give ‘stuff’ as Christmas gifts that aren’t always needed. AGM allows us to give financial gifts to groups and causes that are doing good things in our community and in the world.”

In the first year, AGM raised more than $3,700 in donations for agencies and services. The event has grown since its inception, with more tan $41,500 given in the seven years it has been in operation.

The church does not receive any money from this project. All funds go directly to the service agencies and groups that participate in AGM.

With each donation, the buyer receives an information flyer about the agency he or she is supporting, plus a gift box that can be wrapped and presented to a friend or family member, indicating that a monetary gift has been given in the recipient’s name. People make donations to honor friends, co-workers, Sunday school teachers or grandparents.

A few of the booths offer traditional items for sale, with proceeds going toward the designated charity. Shoppers can walk away with tangible gifts to give to loved ones. Yet most of the alternative gifts are donations for specific services and charities.