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Holiday gifts and the Alternative Christmas Market

Are you fed up with buying gifts that collect dust in a closest somewhere? Another espresso machine purchased at a big box department store is not the only option for holiday buying. This year, consider giving a unique gift bought at the Alternative Christmas Market, being held at Christ Memorial Lutheran Church (CMLC) in Plymouth, Minnesota, November 12 and 13. The market, a mission activity of CMLC and St. Mary of the Lake (Catholic) Church, sponsored in part by Thrivent West Hennepin County Chapter 30105, will be open 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. both days.

Instead of buying yet another sweater for Uncle Alex, purchase malaria nets for families in India or improve lives in disaster-affected areas in Malawi through the gift of baby fish for a pond makeover. Uncle Alex will receive an attractive card informing him about the gift given in his honor and you can rest assured that this year’s gift won’t be collecting any dust.

Gift giving at Christmastime is a long-standing tradition within Christian communities. But, only in recent years have gifts become so expensive for most people, creating anxiety during the holiday season.

“The Alternative Gift Market will offer a wide selection of meaningful, life-giving gifts that can change the world,” explained Market Coordinator, Kathy Weber. “Shoppers can provide education and mobilization for disabled children in the [Democratic Republic of the] Congo or supply groceries for families facing chronic hunger in the United States,” she said.

According to Weber, shoppers will be able to browse through display booths featuring these one-of-a-kind gifts that help those in need around the world.

Gifts of life … literally

Volunteers will be on hand to explain to shoppers how to make their selections. A festive holiday atmosphere with food, music, and entertainment will make experience enjoyable for the whole family.

In addition to the alternative gifts available, shoppers can purchase hand-crafted items from all over the world, while at the same time helping impoverished craftspeople provide food, shelter, and schooling for their families. Hand-crafted jewelry, basketware, linens, brassware, toys, musical instruments, wood carvings, nativity sets, and many more articles from Third World craftspeople will be available at the market through a partnership of SERRV, a fair trade, anti-poverty nonprofit.

The Alternative Christmas Market at Christ Memorial is one of more than 325 similar markets held around the world that are coordinated by Alternative Gifts International (AGI), headquartered in Wichita, Kansas. AGI was founded in 1980 by Harriet Prichard, a school teacher who initially created the idea of an alternative gift market to teach children that they can make a difference by giving help to the world’s poor.

Since then the concept has grown into an international nonprofit organization that has raised more than 17 million dollars to empower the world’s poorest citizens and preserve the planet. The 35 projects through which these gifts are delivered must meet AGI’s strict guidelines for relevance and accountability. All donations from the purchase of alternative gifts are tax deductible.

There is no charge for admission to the market. Cash and checks are accepted; credit cards are not. So, Weber suggests, plan a stop by a bank to ensure adequate funds to have a successful shopping day.

Christ Memorial Lutheran Church is located at the intersection of Plymouth Road and Sunset Trail, about 3/4 mile north of Ridgedale on the Plymouth Road exit from 394. For more information, call 763/544-3632 or 763/476-6654.

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