APOPKA -- By now, it’s a solid tradition of longstanding favorites, but the 40-year-old Christmas bazaar at First UMC, Apopka, always manages to bring something fresh to the community, according to Sharon Fisher, who has been involved for 19 years.
|Hand-decorated candles and crafts donated by members of First UMC, Apopka, have helped make the annual bazaar a community mainstay for 40 years. Photos by Don Youngs.|
|Shoppers turn out for baked goods, decorations and Christmas shopping at the "Ruby Red Christmas" bazaar.|
The name for 2014’s event, held Nov. 15, was “Ruby Red Christmas.” It featured 34 Christmas trees covered with red decorations and surrounded by red items for sale. About 25 year-round volunteers have been working to create items for the bazaar since the second week in January.
Items included creative offerings such as a kids’ yo-yo tree, vintage lace doilies, cookbooks, wreaths crafted from corks, gourmet recipe mixes, a jewelry tree, and teacups, said Fisher, who maintains she doesn’t have a title, just a lot of experience with the event.
The church began the bazaar all those years ago as a way to help pay off its fellowship hall.
When that goal was achieved, members turned their attention to other needs in their community and beyond, including the Florida United Methodist Children’s Home, which received $2,000 from the drawing held at the bazaar last year.
Eleanor Jones, who has been involved for the past five years, said that she and the other “bazaar ladies” also use their talents to raise money for other needs at the church, including curtains for the fellowship hall.
“All (the) money goes for good causes,” she said.
Ten years ago, money from the bazaar helped create a Memorial Garden at the church, a place where bricks bought and donated through the event are inscribed and placed to honor those church and Sunday school members who have passed away. Funds from the bazaar help maintain the garden, which is landscaped and features a pond.
More recently, proceeds helped outfit a playground and purchase window blinds for preschool classrooms at the church.
Jones said the volunteers have many different abilities and skill levels, but all are acting out their faith with creativity and love. Fisher emphasized that there are no vendors involved in the bazaar; all the items have been created or gathered by church volunteers.
Included in the mix were many indoor plants for sale, and this year’s drawing was for items including a quilt and shams, gift certificates and gift baskets, wreaths and ornaments. Breakfast, including homemade cinnamon rolls, and lunch are mainstays at the event, bringing sometimes 300-plus visitors to the church, Fisher said.
On the day of the event, about 30 volunteers were on hand to sell and serve.
The church’s willingness to support this effort year-round by making space available for working and storing items is a large part of the success, Fisher said.
“We started meeting in one room and, as rooms became available, we were able to have workrooms for sewing and storage for fabric,” she said.
“And these ladies recycle everything under the sun.”
-- Anne Dukes is a freelance writer based in Atlanta.