Church event gives shoppers a charitable option

Christmas Market offers products and donation opportunities to help needy

November 26, 2006|By Ellie Baublitz | Ellie Baublitz,Sun Reporter

For those tired of shopping for the perfect Christmas gift, St. Joseph Catholic Community Church of Eldersburg will offer an Alternative Christmas Market on Saturday and Dec. 3.

The market features 20 charitable organizations where people can make donations in the names of friends or loved ones.

"It's a wonderful alternative to the commercialism," said Kathy Reid, chairwoman of the St. Joseph's Christian Service Committee. "They [the vendors] are all in the same business of helping people who are disadvantaged in some way or another."

This year's market has 20 organizations that provide a variety of assistance to the needy, from the developmentally disabled and the elderly, to children and families overseas who are in need of food, clothing, shelter and education.

"The list just goes all over the place, it is truly global and local," Reid said.

Volunteer Mary Ellen Gonsky said that "17 of the 20 only have literature. Basically we don't want to be selling things, we want to be educating people about these organizations and what they do, and to get away from the usual commercial buying."

But for those who want to buy something, three organizations will offer products, though "none of the items are priced - people donate what they feel like," Gonsky said.

St. Joseph's parishioners make baked goods for Springfield Hospital Center. The Shepherd's Staff, an ecumenical ministry in Westminster, has its "Products With a Mission." And a St. Joseph's parishioner "goes to Peru and brings back crafts and things that people there make for the Hope for Morrope Foundation," Gonsky said.

Donations can be matched to the recipient's interest, Gonsky said. For someone who likes to read, a donation to the Literacy Council of Carroll County can be made. Children who like animals can give a donation to Heifer International that provides cows and goats to villagers in Third World countries.

Betty Jean Maus, director of Volunteer Services at Springfield, said the hospital has to do nothing except show up at the market.

"We have a Springfield table, but that congregation does all the baking," Maus said. "I have literature about Springfield and I answer questions that people have."

Maus noted that the church also feeds the vendors Saturday night. "That's caring and sharing," she said.

All the money raised, Maus said, goes to the Springfield patients' needs.

One of the church's project is the Gabriel Network that assists young pregnant women or new mothers in need. The program is a statewide network of churches with an 800 number for women in need to call, said Paul Cooke, Gabriel's coordinator at St. Joseph.

"Young women can get in touch with a crisis pregnancy center, and someone will speak to them, counsel them, ask how they can help and refer them to a local church that's close to them to get them whatever they need," Cooke said.

The alternative market, Cooke said, "is a neat way to involve charity in your giving. We get $800 to $1,200 in some years."

The market will be from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Dec. 3, after each Mass, in the church gym at 915 Liberty Road.

Visitors can decide what they want to give and to whom. At the cashier, visitors are given gift cards for each of their donations.

The 2004 market raised $14,000, with organizations earning from $150 to $1,500, Gonsky said. The market is usually held for two years, then off a year.

Although most of the market's customers are St. Joseph's parishioners, including the religious education classes, the event is open to the public, Reid said.

Besides the idea of alternative gift giving, the market's goal is to get people to give of their "time, treasure and talent," Gonsky said.

Not only do these organizations need money, but they also need volunteers, she said.

For information about the Alternative Christmas Market, call the church at 410-795-7838.

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