Printed on: November 11, 2012

Unique holiday fair extends helping hand to charities

By Mike Mooney
mmooney@postregister.com

For some folks, wading into the holiday shopping season with Thanksgiving still 11 days out might seem a bit early.

But for the 25 Idaho Falls-based charities at the seventh-annual Alternate Giving Fair, a helping hand always is welcome -- especially at this time of year.

"A lot of people are trying to make a difference this Christmas," Ann Riedesel said.

Riedesel, who serves on the board of the Community Outreach Center, was greeting people Saturday as they entered the fair.

The two-day event continues from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today at the Elks Lodge, 640 E. Elva.

At the Giving Fair, holiday shoppers can make donations to local charities in the names of friends and family members.

Until this year, the Giving Fair was staged at the Community Outreach Center. But with 25 local nonprofits joining the 2012 edition, the Giving Fair needed more elbow room. The Elks Lodge proved to be the perfect venue, Brent Thompson said.

Thompson, too, is a Community Outreach Center board member.

Last year, the Giving Fair raised $16,000 that was split between 18 local charities. Over its six-year history, the event has raised more than $100,000.

"And all of that money stays right here in the community," Riedesel said.

This year, Thompson said he hoped the fair would raise at least $30,000.

"I think it's a great idea," Pat Day Hartwell said.

Day Hartwell and her husband, Jack, attended their first Giving Fair on Saturday.

"We have a friend who has invited us for the past several years," she said. "This year we were able to work it out."

The couple planned to make a donation to the Soup Kitchen.

Those entering the fair were handed a "shopping list" for the 25 charities. A representative of each charity was on hand to discuss its needs.

Once shoppers decided which charity to support, they took the list to a check-out table. There, donors received a holiday gift card for each donation made. The cards can be sent to the recipient or the person in whose name the donation was made.

This year's fair also featured a couple of new wrinkles, Riedesel said.

"We have fair-trade coffee and chocolate," she said.

Products such as fair-trade coffee result in higher pay for impoverished growers who use environmentally friendly techniques on their coffee bean farms.

Money raised by the coffee and chocolate sale benefited the Community Outreach Center.

The 2012 fair also introduced the "Empty Bowl Lunch."

For a $20 donation, those attending could select a handmade soup bowl. Students in the Craft Department at Idaho State University donated 100 bowls, which were going fast Saturday.

A wide variety of other gift options were available, however.

At the Haven Shelter, for example, a $100 donation would cover the cost of a set of GED tests for one person.

A $80 donation to the Soup Kitchen, meanwhile, would enable the facility to serve from 120 to 200 meals.

And a $40 donation to First Book-Bonneville would cover the cost of 16 books for disadvantaged children.

First Book board member Julie George was representing the program at the fair Saturday. By lunch time, business had been brisk and George said she was just glad to be a part of it.

"There's a lot of good going on here," she said.

Mike Mooney can be reached at 542-6764. Comment on this story on Post Talk at www.postregister.com/posttalk/.

If you go

The seventh annual Holiday Alternate Giving Fair continues from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today at the Idaho Falls Elks Lodge, 640 E. Elva. At the fair, holiday shoppers can make gift donations to local charities.