The world at our doorstep CARROLL COUNTY

December 22, 1992

Haven't finished your Christmas shopping? There's a treasure trove of beautiful and unusual articles from around the world to be found right in our own backyard, at the International Gift Center in New Windsor.

As a holiday bonus, purchases of handicrafts at the non-profit center will help artisans in 40 developing countries who make them, part of an world outreach effort by the Church of the Brethren.

SERRV -- Sales Exchange for Refugee Rehabilitation Vocation -- started after World War II to provide relief to refugees in economically devastated parts of the globe. It continues to buy at a fair price those handicrafts, artworks and clothing produced by some 200 cooperative organizations throughout the world, including nearby Appalachia. The goods are sold at the New Windsor store, through a mail order catalog and through 3,400 church and service groups in the United States.

The center has for so long been a part of the Carroll County landscape that many folks around here may overlook its unique mission. Long before the foreign merchandise chains began to saturate Middle America with their exotic offerings, SERRV was selling these crafts as a showcase for the less fortunate parts of the world.

It has followed the church mandate for international assistance by providing start-up grants to cooperatives and non-profit groups to purchase materials and equipment, as well as avoiding exploitation in prices paid to these Third World groups. Customers at the International Gift Shop (500 Main St.) know they may not be getting the article at the lowest price possible, but that they are helping poor people to help themselves.

The center also offers international understanding here at home, with its occasional festivals that feature international entertainment and cultural events. This month, people from Germany, Jordan and El Salvador described the holiday customs in their lands. A display from Thailand explained the Siamese festival of Loy Krathong.

The international lunches SERRVed at the center have earned a widespread reputation for taste and variety, exposing the public to the delicious variety of foreign dishes. So a visit to the New Windsor center is well worthwhile for satisfying both your appetite and your conscience.

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