Alternative Gift Fair Strives for a Higher Purpose
In the true Oberlin spirit of giving, Associate Professor of neuroscience and biology Jan Thornton and Professor of psychology Cindy Frantz organized the Alternative Gift Fair for campus and community members who want to give something more special than Chia Pets and Clappers to loved ones this Christmas.
If you pass through the Science Center between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, until December 19, you will find vendors selling wares ranging from handmade Guatemalan textiles to fair trade coffees and teas. All of the proceeds will directly benefit local and international non-profit organizations.
Besides being able to purchase products at the fair, shoppers can donate money to the participating non-profit of their choice in another’s name and have a personalized card printed to announce the gift on their behalf.
Thornton and Frantz got the idea to organize Oberlin’s first alternative fair from the various churches and non-profit organizations with which they have been involved. The professors contacted the Oberlin College President’s Office to request a grant that would cover the initial set-up costs, which President Krislov’s office graciously supplied.
“That way,” Thornton stated, “all the proceeds could go to the organizations.”
At the fair on Wednesday, a steady stream of students, faculty and a few community members perused the tables, chatting with vendors and exclaiming over the beautiful crafts. One of the shoppers, College sophomore Jonas Goldstein, commented, “I think it’s a great alternative to buying standard Christmas gifts. A lot of students [at Oberlin] come from backgrounds where giving another t-shirt or something is pointless, because a lot of people [are more affluent]. [Shopping at the fair or making a donation] has a higher purpose.”
Behind a table laden with jewelry and textiles from India was James Helm, one of the vendors for the Lady Doak College Endowment Fund. Helm remarked, “The response [to the fair] has been good. People like the idea of purchasing gifts from third-world craftsmen while buying gifts for the holidays.” Items purchased from Helm will support higher education for women from all social classes in India.
Asked if sales had been good, William Fuchsman of the Santa Elena Project of Accompaniment smiled. “Oh yes, students love cookies,” he said as he swept his hand over some delicious looking Welsh cookies on the table, nestled in between richly colored Guatemalan fabrics.
Beaming, Thornton commented, “I would love to see this be an Oberlin tradition.”