"Oh, they're all decorated up for Christmas," said a woman who entered the International Gift Shop in New Windsor, which sells handcrafts made by people in developing nations.
Not quite. The SERRV shop at the New Windsor Service Center was also dressed up for this weekend's Holidays Around the World celebration, which is about more than Christmas.
The visitor was right about one thing: "It looks so nice."
"I just love to hear that," said shop manager Helen Crouse, who had been working for a week stringing lights and decorating trees. "It really warms the heart."
Trees featuring ornaments from the Appalachian region of the United States, Germany, El Salvador and Jordan will adorn the second floor of the shop, and representatives from the regions will be on hand to describe the customs of their native lands.
But Christmas is not the only holiday the center is celebrating from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday. In an effort to educate people about some of those the gift shop helps, displays about Kwanza, Hanukkah and the Thai festival of Loykrathong will also be featured.
All three holidays are observed around Christmastime.
"This is an attempt to make people aware not only that we have gifts from developing countries but that this is an opportunity to learn about those cultures," said Robert Chase, the director of SERRV, which stands for Sales Exchange for Refugee Rehabilitation Vocation. "Each gift reflects the culture it comes from, and many have information accompanying them that talks about the culture."
Lunches are also available for $5, with dessert samples from eight countries.
The desserts include: peanut bread from Africa, sweet potato pie from Brazil, banana bread from Haiti, halawa temar (date halva) from Iraq, bread pudding from Mexico, cookies from Norway, kleer (rice pudding) from Pakistan, and flan, (caramel custard) from the Philippines.
Although in the past the center has sponsored special events that were well attended, this is the first time an event has focused on December holidays.
"People are always responsive to these events," said Mr. Chase. "Here, away from the larger cities, people aren't constantly bumping into people from foreign cultures, and people here seem to welcome the opportunity to learn about them."
Meanwhile, visitors can shop for holiday gifts and help people in developing countries at the same time.
SERRV, a program of the Church of the Brethren, purchases crafts these people have made and sells them in New Windsor and through 3,400 groups across the country. In addition, the program takes orders from a catalog that is produced in New Windsor.
In each case, SERRV works through cooperatives and non-profit groups to make sure the workers are paid a fair price for their goods.
"The area we feel we specialize in is the $20 to $50 range," said Mr. Chase. "A survey of our customers has found that what people are looking for is something in the $15 to $30 range that is quality."