Alternative gift fair evokes empathy

Kevin Mamo, 8, of Grand Junction pitches his charity, Stand Proud, to a potential donor Sunday during the 26th annual Alternative Gifts Christmas Fair at the Lincoln Park Barn in Grand Junction. Stand Proud provides leg braces to children disabled by polio, spinal cord injuries, birth defects, cerebral palsy or other ailments in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.



Lance Whitesides and William Smardo have always had a roof over their heads and food to eat.

Yet the two ninth-grade students from Fruita 8/9 School did some deep thinking as they researched the living conditions of people in Haiti. Photos the boys had collected showed a girl wading through a flooded downtown and garbage-strewn camps.

On Sunday, the boys spent the afternoon behind a table hoping to convince people to purchase farm animals to help Haitians regain their quality of life. The local boys were working for a cause for people they have never met, making their pitches at the Alternative Gifts Christmas Fair at the Lincoln Park Barn.

“Seeing people living in trash is sad,” Smardo said.

“I never knew how bad hurricane Matthew was. I didn’t feel like it was one of those things that was that advertised,” Lance said.

In its 26th year, the Alternative Gifts Christmas Fair gives locals a chance to give back to the community or make their dollars stretch globally.

Shoppers could choose among 19 local charities or 30 worldwide organizations. The gist is to give a gift that can truly affect another’s life. These gifts are in lieu of a material gift to friends and family, with the thought that material presents usually are forgotten soon after Christmas.

“This is great for people who either have everything or teaching people and children how to give,” said Julie Mamo, executive director for Grand Valley Peace and Justice, which organizes the yearly event. “How many striped ties do we need?”

This year marks the 26th annual event. Givers who missed the fair Sunday have until 
Dec. 16 to make purchases online at grandvalleypeacejustice.org.

Mamo said officials with local nonprofit agencies often thank Grand Valley Peace and Justice for sponsoring the fair, saying the event helps makes their operations run.

Take for example, the mission of the Child and Migrant Services in Palisade. Gifts to the organization in a loved one’s name can mean a farm worker receives transportation to a medical appointment. Or it could be buying a meal for a farm worker and that person’s family. Gifts can provide migrant workers with a social outlet or classes to learn English.

“Without them, what would we have here?” said Jennifer Murrell, a board member for the group. “Who would pick the peaches or get the grapes off the vine? The migrant workers work hard and they want to be a part of the community, even if it’s just for a little while.”

Gift-giver Nancy Spangler likes to surprise her grandchildren by giving in their name to local causes.

Spangler spent some of her Sunday choosing gifts to the Grand Valley Catholic Outreach and the Western Slope Center for Children.

“This allows giving gifts besides material ones. They get so excited to see what they are going to get every year,” Spangler said. “Catholic Outreach does so much to help the needy in the Grand Valley.”

Spangler’s friend, Linda Jameson, chose to give to Kids Aid and Discoverability in the names of her children and grandchildren.

“They love to ski and hike and love to see other people being able to do that,” Jameson said of her family.

Kay Klausmeier set upon replacement crutches for children in Africa, who have dehabilitating diseases like polio.

“The little boy who seemed like, about 7, did a wonderful job of explaining it,” Klausmeier said.

Grandmother Jean Hollis of 8-year-old Kevin Mamo said she couldn’t have been prouder of her grandson for his work to promote the nonprofit group, Stand Proud.

“I do feel like he is learning something from this,” Hollis said about her grandson. “He is learning how to be empathetic and to express his concerns.”


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