Alternative giving Fair at the New Paltz United Methodist Church

Left to right: Margaret Howe, Linda Mellor and Pastor Bette Sohm. (Photo by Lauren Thomas)

“No one has ever become poor by giving.” — Anne Frank

The New Paltz United Methodist Church is hosting an “Alternative Giving Fair” instead of its traditional Holiday Fair in response to the prolific consumerism and materialism that have come to dominate the Christmas season. “We wanted to provide our community with other options for sharing their love with family and friends by offering ‘gift’ purchases that help others in need,” said Linda Mellor of the Methodist Church.


She said that the idea started last year as she and many other members of the Church were working on their Holiday Fair and at the same time “dealing with all of the materialism associated with the holidays, the detriment it causes and how it eclipses the true meaning of Christmas. We were dealing with that upstairs in our sanctuary, and yet at our Holiday Fair encouraging people to ‘buy, buy, buy.’ It was a real disconnect, and we began brainstorming about how we might approach it differently.”

To that end, more than a dozen members began to create the idea for an “Alternative Giving Fair,” which would serve a dual purpose: one to raise money for the Church and its ministries, as the annual Holiday Fair is their biggest fundraiser, but secondly, to encourage the gift of giving to those in need. While there will still be many of the traditionally popular aspects of the Holiday Fair, like the Cookie Walk, arts and crafts, a silent auction, fair-trade coffee, teas, chocolates and the luncheon, there will be a unique twist to each, as well as new opportunities to give gifts of love that help others.

There will be a table set up at the Fair where people can “buy” a gift in a loved one’s name from several charitable organizations like Heifer International; Hurricane Irene Flood Relief; UMCOR, the United Methodist Church’s Committee on Relief to troubled areas throughout the world; and several other organizations associated with the church. With Heifer International, “Someone could purchase a dozen chickens or a sheep for someone in need, and then write out a card to a loved one saying that they did this in their name,” she explained.

The craftspeople who sell their unique, local handmade wares are participating in a “buy one/give one” exchange. “When someone purchases a hand-knitted sweater or hat and gloves, the artisans create a second gift and give it to one of many local agencies we support, like Family of New Paltz, the Ulster County Domestic Violence Shelter, the Children’s Home in Binghamton…” For the children’s home, every time someone purchases a handmade fleece blanket, they will send one to the kids. “If the art or craft doesn’t match those types of agencies, then the artist will donate a percentage of the profits to a local agency of their choice. For example, if it’s dog treats, they may choose to donate to a local animal shelter.”

Since no one wanted the give up the Cookie Walk — in which talented bakers of the Church make a wide variety of delicious holiday cookies that patrons can mix and match in a box weighed and paid for by the pound — a member of the church offered to make a matching donation for all the money raised by the Cookie Walk and give that amount to UMCOR. Inspired by that idea, another church member offered to make a matching donation for whatever was raised during the silent auction to the church’s various ministries, and another member offered to provide a matching figure to Hurricane Irene Relief for all proceeds made by the soup, sandwich and salad bar. “The ideas and generosity of our membership has been amazing,” said Mellor.

There will also be tables provided free of charge for local non-profit organizations like Family and the Domestic Violence Shelter for people to provide direct donations in the name of a family member or friend or loved one.

“Much of the fair is the same, but it’s the way we approached it,” mused Mellor. “It’s made us feel more whole, made us feel more like the church we want to become and the people we want to become. We’re doing it with integrity and purpose, and it feels great and exciting.”

Dozens of members have been working around the clock to help host the Alternative Giving Fair, which takes place this Saturday, Dec. 3 in the basement of the church on Main Street in the Village of New Paltz from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Come and give the gift that keeps on giving.

For more information log onto the Church website at ++