Fair shows another way of giving for the holidays

Three-year-old Erin Casey pets goats at the Alternative Christmas Fair at St.Joseph Parish Hall, Third and White Ave in Grand Junction Sunday morning. Her family was supporting a project to help students build hen houses and raise chicken for families in Boliva. 54 nonprofits took part in this years fair.

Nick Stubler didn’t know receiving extra credit would change his life.

In exchange for 15 exam points in his AP Human Geography class at Fruita 8/9 School, Nick set up a booth at Sunday’s Alternative
Christmas Fair at the parish hall of St. Joseph Catholic Church.

When he learned the median age of Uganda’s population was just 15, Nick, 14, wanted to help the country’s refugees and children.

Through Nick’s booth at the Alternative Christmas Fair, people in the Grand Valley bought antibiotics for $15, three days of medical training for $62 or an entire medical kit for $165, to help people in Uganda.

The Alternative Christmas Fair is a national program in which people can spend as little or as much as they want on goods and services to help those less fortunate locally, nationally or globally.

In turn, those people who support Alternative Christmas Fair can donate that money on behalf of a family member or friend as a Christmas present.

For example, Suzanne Porter, 29, bought a river trip Sunday for one disabled person through Colorado Discover Ability. The cost was $25 for the rafting trip, and Porter made the purchase on behalf of a family member who loves to raft.

This Christmas, Porter will give her relative a card notifying that relative that someone will enjoy a rafting trip because of that relative’s generosity.

Porter considered it a Christmas gift that epitomizes the spirit of the holiday.

“I feel like, for me, Christmas is about spending time with family and giving to the broader community that is Grand Junction and the world,” Porter said.

Porter split the money she spent at the Alternative Christmas Fair evenly be
tween local organizations and global causes.

Jamie Richardson, who explained the Alternative Christmas Fair process to those who showed up Sunday, said the concept can seem confusing but is simple.  Instead of buying your boss a fruit basket, you could buy nine meals at the Community Food Bank for
$10 on your boss’ behalf.

Last year, the Foundation for Cultural Exchange, which Richardson is a part of, helped raised $1,000 at the Alternative Christmas Fair to replace unsanitary toilets at a public school in Grand Junction’s sister city of El Espino, El Salvador.

This year, the exchange is hoping to raise money for a kindergarten classroom at the same school. Right now, about 450 children can’t attend school because there is no room for them, said Anna Stout, a founder of the exchange.

Dozens of booths with similarly inspiring causes were lined up at St. Joseph’s Parish Hall. Nearly a dozen of those booths were set up by students studying advanced placement geography with Randy Majors.

One student, Nick Stubler, admitted he initially put up a booth to get extra credit, but that the experience had become so much more.

“Now, that I’ve done it, next year even without incentive, I think I’ll do it again,” he said.


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