With money in hand, eight-year-old Everett and his four-year-old sister Cecilia held tight to the Christmas gifts they had just purchased, while scouring the tables for something else their mom or dad might like.
The siblings were at the St. Andrew’s United Church Children’s Bazaar, where even one thin dime went a long way towards purchasing that perfect present for that special someone.
The tables in the church hall were filled with donated items for the youngsters to buy.
Everett was asked how much fun he was having shopping.
“A whole bunch, because we get to see things we haven’t seen before and we can go shopping for presents for our parents,” was his reply.
The children’s grandmother stood with the other adults just outside the door of the downstairs hall.
“This is a first for us. I just heard about it and I brought my grandchildren down from Englehart for this event,” grinned Roseanne Roth.
And because the items are donated, the children also get a lesson in recycling and waste reduction.
“I think it is really important that they get to reuse items, and they think of somebody else besides themselves. I’m just looking at this thinking this is what a community should be. I think this will be the start of a new tradition for us.”
Church minister Tracy Davis also appreciates the subtle reduce, reuse, recycle message.
“We’re working really hard to be a green church. We don’t have plastics any more in the building. Even our renters, we ask them not to bring plastics or Styrofoam,” said Davis.
“So, this is a great way to recycle things”
Davis credited the parishioners for making the bazaar a success.
“There are some amazing things that end up being brought here. A week or two ahead, members of the congregation go through their closets and drawers and they bring all their great stuff, they bring wrapping paper, and they bring reusable bags for the kids to carry around. It takes about 50 people to pull it off,” explained Davis who still has all the gifts her daughter bought for her over the years, including the year her daughter bought almost every item Davis had donated to the bazaar.
“She was about six at the time. They’re such precious items now because it was something she did with her heart and it is just beautiful,” said Davis.
The bazaar has a long 29-year history.
Some of the adults who attended as children are back with their own children and in some cases, grandchildren.
The children were thoroughly enjoying themselves, laughing and talking as they ran from table to table, trying to pair the right item with the right person.
“The children come with their list and we have people who help them shop. They usually end up buying more for themselves than they do for gifts which is just fine. And their items are gift wrapped when they leave here,” said Davis.
“They are very clear when they see something, that their grandmother, grandfather or mother, and dad, brother or sister is going to love this. It is not just about buying random stuff. They are very specific about what they are buying.”
There is a look of concentration on their faces when they pick something up from the table and slowly turn it around in their little hands to look at from different angles.
After some serious thought, they plunk down their money and walk away with a look of satisfaction, confident they have made the right choice.
“It is a look of absolute pure joy. It is deeper than joy almost. It allows them to have the freedom to give back,” said Davis.
“That’s part of what it is about, the giving back piece, about not just receiving. We really want to instill that in children.”
Margie Howard has been a volunteer wrapper at the bazaar for the past 10 years.
“I’m a retired kindergarten teacher. It is a wonderful idea to have the kids come shopping.”
Volunteer wrapper Audrey Sullivan has been helping for the past seven years.
“I just love to see them going around picking out all their gifts. They have their lists and it is just so cute.”
The youngsters range in age from two years to tweens.
“Look around and you see that some of these children have been with us since they were about two years old. And they’re just teetering at around 12 and 13 which is great because then they all want to volunteer afterward. So, it is just a nice progression because we want to instill that whole importance of volunteerism in kids.”
In the end, the children left with gifts in tow, a bounce in their step and a smile on their face.