Shopping local has its benefits

By Heather Curtis - December 6, 2007

On Black Friday, people around the nation woke up at the crack of dawn to wait in line in front of big box stores, eager to get inside and take advantage of the savings.

The rush was frantic, mobbed, and chaotic. Last weekend, here on the Island, people did their own Christmas shopping in a fashion characteristic of the Vineyard: relaxed, warm, and personal. Various bazaars offered Islanders a chance to buy beautiful homemade crafts, many of which were made by talented Vineyard residents.

In Edgartown, a wooden whale welcomed people to the Whale of a Sale at the Federated Church. Inside the double doors away from the cold was a decidedly warm feeling. People lunched at tables covered in festive, holiday tablecloths topped with small glass vases holding spruce cuttings and holly leaves donated by Donaroma's Nursery and Landscaping Services. Tables displayed hand-knit sweaters and scarves, homemade jellies, baked goods and tag sale items donated by members of the congregation. A long empty table at the back had been filled will wreaths donated by Donaroma's, which sold out quickly. While cleaning up the pine needles, Janice Donaroma was asked if she would sell them to a woman looking to make potpourri. While the request was odd, she complied.

Linda Voluckas
Linda Voluckas, president of the American Legion Post 257 Auxiliary, with the gifts at the bazaar last Saturday. Photos by Susan Safford. Click photo for larger version.

In terms of holiday bazaars, "It doesn't get any more bizarre than this one," Pastor Jerry Fritz said in his characteristically joking manner. Shirley Dewing and the Unity Group, a quilting group that pledges to raise roughly $3,000 for the church each year, organize this yearly tradition at the church. The bazaar usually brings in $2-3,000 before expenses, leaving roughly $2,000 for the church.

"The challenge is getting people to do it," said Ms. Dewing, wearing a Santa hat and floral-print apron. But just working with the quilting and craft group is rewarding. "It's cheap therapy," she said, standing next to a table displaying homemade dishcloths, pillowcases, and sweaters made by Unity Club members.

And speaking of tables, two belonging to the church were accidentally sold in the rush. Luckily, they were able to track down the woman who bought them and get them back.

Beatrice Silvia and Priscilla Thifault
Beatrice Silvia (left) and Priscilla Thifault, the raffle ladies at the American Legion Christmas Bazaar. Click photo for larger version.

In Vineyard Haven, Jeanne Staples was busy selling crafts made by artisans throughout the world at the Peacecraft sale. The basement of the building housing the Belushi Pisano gallery was decorated with hand-carved manger sets, colorful quilts, homemade ornaments, dolls, soap and chocolates. The Peacecraft sale, which is now in its tenth year, is part of the Fish Farm for Haiti project started by Islander Margaret Penicaud. Each year, Vineyarders like Jeanne Staples make trips to Haiti to help out at a fish farm or school. The group's latest project is teaching young woman to quilt. Ms. Staples and others sell the quilts here and then send the money back to Haiti.

The Peacecraft sale also has items bought from Serv International, a marketing agent for self-help organizations throughout the world. One hundred percent of the proceeds from the sale go to the people who make the crafts.

"The real part that I enjoy is that you're doing something that has real meaning," says Ms. Staples in between answering people's questions about the crafts and making change out of a small box. "When I give the gift, I always tell them all about it."

And perhaps Islanders can tell their friends and family about the Vineyard's own personal brand of Christmas. No big box stores or no huge discounts here, but the personal, laid-back style is priceless.

Heather Curtis is a contributing writer to The Times.