This year, why not celebrate the spirit of the holidays by making your purchases benefit others, not just those who receive them. There are a handful of opportunities on the Island to guarantee that your Christmas shopping dollars go towards helping those in need.
Every December, for the past decade, Marsha Winsryg has transformed her West Tisbury home into a gallery of African crafts. The sale supports not only artisans from impoverished areas of Africa, but all profit goes to the Mama Bakhita Home for disabled children in Livingstone, Zambia. The Mama Bakhita Home, a grass-roots, Zambian-run charity, provides therapy, medical referral, and education to a group who were traditionally hidden away by their families and shunned by society.
For the annual holiday sale, Ms. Winsryg is offering carvings, silver jewelry, African fabrics, and baskets — the sales of which will be split between the craftspeople and the charity. The mothers of the disabled children have also crafted a unique line of dolls to help support the Mama Bakhita Home. The Zambezi dolls are made of colorful African fabrics with removable clothes.
Ms. Winsryg will offer hot chai and show short videos and a slideshow of the Zambian kids and the home. There will be a craft table where kids can make holiday cards to send to the Mama Bakhita children. You can stop by New Lane in West Tisbury on the next three Saturdays from 10 am to 4 pm or call ahead on other days, 508-693-4059.
Every year, The Peacecraft store helps to support the locally funded Fish Farm for Haiti. Housed this year on Beach Street Extension across from the Black Dog Tavern on Vineyard Haven harbor, the temporary holiday shop offers homemade items from impoverished nations around the globe. Fish Farm for Haiti was established in 1998 on the grounds of a humanitarian teaching order of nuns outside of Port-au-Prince. Through fundraisers on Martha’s Vineyard and private donations, the Fish Farm has been able to help finance, among other things, a well, a school, vegetable gardens and five ponds for the raising and harvesting of tilapia, a food fish.
The Peacecraft initiative helps to fund the project through sales of handmade crafts purchased from two fair trade organizations, as well as items that volunteers bring back from frequent trips to Haiti.
Among the global gift items are knitwear, soapstone and wooden carvings, jewelry, fabric bags, and journals, and lots of ornaments and decorations. From Haitian artisans there is a large selection of intricate tin wall hangings as well as brightly colored paintings which are, this year, on sale for 30-percent off. The shop is continually restocked.
Island artist Mark Zeender has contributed a series of lovely atmospheric landscapes, as well as a still life in oil which is one of the items in a month-long raffle. The three winners will have the chance to choose from the painting, 100 gallons of fuel oil or propane, and a day trip on one of the Black Dog Tall Ships. Fish Farm founder Margaret Penicaud is also encouraging shoppers to sponsor a Haitian child in need; pictures and bios of the kids will be available in the shop.
The Holly Day Fair and Luncheon at Grace Church in Vineyard Haven has been an annual kick-off to the holiday season for many years now. Both used and new items are for sale. As well as providing a great opportunity to shop and socialize, all of the proceeds from the annual Holly Day go to Episcopal Relief & Development, an international organization that “provides a compassionate response to human suffering on behalf of the Episcopal Church,” according to their website. The organization has responded to disasters — most notably in recent years Hurricane Katrina and the Haiti earthquake — and is also dedicated, through ongoing programs, to alleviating hunger and improving food supply, creating economic opportunities and promoting health and fighting diseases.
The Holly Day luncheon will feature a choice of four or five different sandwiches, including lobster rolls, sausage and pepper subs, and a vegetarian choice, a cranberry salad, homemade cookies, and other desserts, and coffee and tea for $10. Along with an assortment of handmade items, baked goods, and a white elephant table, the sale will feature a children’s room where kids can find affordable gifts and have them wrapped. This year, the organizers have added a silent auction with goods and services donated by community members and local businesses. Food will be served from 11 am to 1 pm, the sale runs from 10 am to 2 pm.
If you want to help support a cause closer to home, be sure to visit Hospice of Martha’s Vineyard’s annual Handmade from the Heart sale and tea during Christmas in Edgartown, December 9-11. “We don’t receive any money from any insurance reimbursements,” executive director Terre Young said of the 30-year-old organization that provides support of all kinds to those with advanced illnesses and those who care for them. “We don’t ask anyone for any money. We are able to send our nurses and counselors into the homes of the families completely free. We can only do this because our community supports us.”
Every year Hospice volunteers turn the historic Daniel Fisher House, beautifully decorated for the season, into a shopper’s paradise featuring homemade items at very affordable prices. The selection includes knitted items, baked goods, handmade jewelry (including wampum this year), wreaths, ornaments, and decorations and whatever else community members have donated. In one of the lovely sunlit rooms of the historic home, tables will be set up for those wanting to take a break from the cold and enjoy coffee, hot cocoa, and sweet treats.
Hospice is often able, thanks to a big-ticket donation, to include a raffle item in the sale (a sewing machine last year) but so far, Ms. Young says there has not been an appropriately pricey donation. She says that any donations are still very welcome and adds that they are particularly looking for gifts for men.
‘Tis the season.