Preparations underway for Alternative Gift Market

Ruth Reed is nearly hidden behind a tree of ornaments during the Alternative Gift Market last year in Marion.

The calendar may read September, but the Alternative Gift Market, held in November, is preparing for another holiday season and is still looking for a few more individuals or organizations to sponsor a charity.

Jackie Volbrecht, one of the coordinators, said there are eight projects needing to be adopted.

?When church groups, civic groups or individuals pick a project (a charity) from one of the 30, they then become that charities representative,? she said.

As part of being the representative, the sponsor agrees to create a Christmas ornament representing the charity and decorating a small booth showcasing the charity?s work.

?The project is just for the one day,? she added.

How it works

?The way the market works,? she said, ?is that Alternative Gifts International, headquartered in Wichita, receives applications from hundreds of small charities.

?These are charities unable to have a public relations firm or large fundraising capacity.?

Volbrecht explained the charities must meet certain criteria to be featured in the AGI catalog, and are vetted to make sure they are doing the work and have been for more than a year.

In addition, the charities must be a 501(c)3 non-profit registered in the U.S., but their work can be anywhere in the world, she said.

?They also must agree that 100 percent of the funds raised through our markets is used for work and not for administrative costs.

?Ninety cents of every dollar raised goes to the work and 10 cents for AGI for administrative costs.?

On market day, Volbrecht said, everyone who has a charity sets up their booth according to project numbers.

When people arrive, they are given a numbered shopping list, and as they visit with each of the charity representatives, she said, they can determine a donation, if they would like.

Donors can then pick up an ornament with a project insert that tells about the work of that group and continue shopping.

?After shopping,? she said, ?donors can pay one total amount and receive a beautiful Christmas card to include with each of their gifts.?

Local history of event

Volbrecht said that even though this is the fourth year for the market in Marion, it actually began five years ago with a group from Marion Presbyterian Church, sponsoring a project in the Wichita Market.

?After that,? she said, ?we felt confident that we could begin a market here.

?We began in our fellowship hall at the church the first year, and most people took several projects because we didn?t have many sponsors.?

The small group raised about $4,000 for both local and AGI charities, she said.

In the second year, the event was again hosted in the fellowship hall of Marion Presbyterian Church.

?We were overflowing with projects and some had to be put in the Sunday school rooms, because we were overcrowded,? Volbrecht said.

?Our second market brought in close to $7,000 for local and worldwide projects.?

Three was the charm

The group decided to take a chance with a larger venue, she said, so in the third year, and after talking with Margo Yates at the Marion Chamber of Commerce, the community center ballroom was reserved.

?We felt like we had arrived,? she said. ?Laura Williams did our publicity and we rented the billboard at Walton to advertise our market.?

Dana Ware on behalf of the Emmanuel Baptist Church put together the ?Hens for Health in Bolivia? during the Alternative Gift Market in Marion. Williams also coordinated our publicity and Linda Ogden helped organize and recruit sponsors for AGI projects.

?For the first time, all of our projects were adopted and represented at the market as well has being a great venue for our local charities. FACT, Inc., Circles, Main Street Ministries, Big Brothers/Big Sisters and PEO educational scholarships,? Volbrecht said.

So many people lent their talents and time to make year three a break out year.

?Jeremiah Lange sold fair trade coffee, we had music all day, people who checked in our shoppers and also checked them out,? she said.

?We raised over $9,000 for our charities.?

What?s next?

Volbrecht said the group wants to build on its success from the previous years.

?We will use what worked and try some new ideas as well.

?There may be some surprises with our music, too,? she said.

Those adopting a charity, or donating toward it, believe the happiest part of the event is the gifts.

?People have donated towards a charity, and can give an ornament and greeting card to someone on their Christmas list, which will say, ?in your honor a gift has been given.??

It is a ?meaningful and impactful gift? to give to another, and according to Volbrecht, is something much more beautiful than the ordinary package.

?Most of all,? she said, ?those people doing the work receive the gift of resources and help?it is an hologram of blessings.?

Adopting a charity

Volbrecht said there are eight projects yet to be adopted.

For those who want to kick off the giving season in a unique and meaningful way, call Volbrecht at 316-519-5146 or email her at: jvolbrecht925@gmail.com, and she will get materials and information to those interested.

The projects include:

? Vegetable gardens for families in Tanzania?helping families plant a vegetable garden and provide food for these hungry families and provide a source of income.

? Recycle for mobility in Bolivia?sending recycled wheelchairs and crutches to disable children and adults.

? Backpacks full of medicine for Burma?sending medicine to refugees in Burma?s isolated jungles.

? Well babies, well moms in Guatemala?helping expectant moms and newborns receive life-saving pre and post natal care.

? Safe drinking water for schools in India?helping install water purification systems in India?s schools and protecting the health of children.

? Tummy worms no more in Vietnam?providing anti-parasite medicine to heal a child of intestinal worms.

? Empower Tibetan girls in Tibet? giving a generation of girls the power to overcome cultural inequality.

? Help Kenya?s vulnerable youth?giving children a chance to learn and reach beyond a life they never chose.

The market is from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 8 at the Marion City Municipal Building, 201

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