"My mom was thrilled with an opportunity to change lives," said Johnson, a member of Monroe's Morning Star Lutheran Church.
Today, the church will host its fourth annual Alternative Gift Fair. The event, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., is an opportunity to shop for holiday gifts without setting foot in a store. But the aim isn't to keep people out of the malls.
Through their purchases, shoppers will be improving the lives of people around the world and in their own communities.
"Last year we raised over $6,000," said Kathi Cooley, an office manager at the church who also leads Morning Star Lutheran's youth group.
Johnson, who has two children involved in the youth group, helped organize this year's fair.
"It started out rather small, but this year we have 16 vendors coming,"she said.
Local charities will be represented, including the Sultan Food Bank, along with many global nonprofit organizations. Among those are Heifer International, which works to alleviate hunger and poverty by providing people in developing countries with livestock, seeds and training. Another organization at the fair, Nothing But Nets, uses donations to buy mosquito netting for malaria prevention in Africa.
The youth group contributed by making braided bracelets, which will be offered for donations at Saturday's fair. That money will benefit Invisible Children, an organization that seeks to help Ugandan children forced into slavery or forced into becoming soldiers in a long-running war.
"Invisible Children raises money to get these kids into school and a more stable life," Johnson said. The organization, she said, came to Monroe High School, and some youth group members wanted to help the effort.
"They spent several hours sitting down, visiting and making the bracelets. They had fun doing it," Johnson said.
Buyers of some gifts will get cards or certificates showing that a donation to a charity has been made in the recipient's name.
"There are also lots of tangible gifts," Cooley said.
There will be fair-trade coffee and chocolates, baskets, clothing and other textile products.
"A lot of us do all of our Christmas shopping at the gift fair," Cooley said. "Some years, I've bought chickens from Heifer International. Telling your aunt that you gave a cow in her name is really cool.
"What do you buy your in-laws who have everything? My parents do not need another vase," Cooley said. "The money I'm spending is going to help people."
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; email@example.com.
Alternative Gift Fair
Monroe's Morning Star Lutheran Church will host an Alternative Gift Fair from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. Gifts will be available from local and global charitable organizations, including Heifer International, Ten Thousand Villages, Rwanda Partners Basket Co., Maendelo African Imports, Nothing But Nets, Invisible Children, the Sultan Food Bank and more. Soup and pie will be available from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. There will be music in the church from 1 to 4 p.m. The church is at 338 S. Lewis St., Monroe.
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