Beyond Buying

Beyond Buying

Courtesy Photo
Melissa Swann, Alternative Gift Market coordinator, says that organizations like the Humane Society of the Ozarks and the Fayetteville Animal Shelter often bring dogs and cats who are looking for permanent homes to the event.

True spirit of Christmas found at Alternative Gift Market


St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Fayetteville has been hosting its Alternative Gift Market on the first Sunday of December for around 15 years now, says Melissa Swann, who has organized the event for nine years. Eventgoers have the opportunity to learn more about 60-plus local and international nonprofit organizations and make donations in honor of a loved one for Christmas.

“Christmas isn’t about buying and materialism,” says Swann. “It’s not all about the presents under the tree. There’s a much more valuable and deep message to the holidays that I think we sometimes overlook. This is a perfect way to bring the holidays back to what they’re really all about.”

Some organizations provide precise information as to what donations will fund. For example, Community Extension Outreach (C.E.O.), an organization that provides emergency assistance to area residents, says that a $10 donation will help pay for gasoline, $15 will provide three days of food for one person, $30 will help with a utility bill and $75 will pay for a doctor’s visit.

Morgan Scholz, communication manager for Community Clinic, says the interaction between organizations and the public is one of the best aspects of the event.

“One of the main benefits … is to raise awareness for the work we do and share our mission of healthy people, healthy communities with more people in Northwest Arkansas,” says Scholz. “Especially with those who might not be in a position to need our services but who may know someone who does. Another benefit is to see and collaborate with other wonderful organizations that we work side-by-side with.

“It’s a really beautiful expression of the collective work that we do here in Northwest Arkansas to better our community.”

Denise Greathouse says she has been a shopper at the event for a number of years. She keeps coming back, she says, because it’s become a part of her holiday tradition.

“I find that the commercialization of Christmas detracts from the season,” says Greathouse. “I think I feel more of the spirit of Christmas at the Gift Market. If I’m buying something there for family members, I know the gift is going to be helping someone, which is so much more in the spirit of Christmas.”

Greathouse says she’s gotten positive feedback from friends and relatives who have received gifts made in their honor at the Gift Market.

“I have friends who are really fond of animals and the Humane Society,” she says. “If I give them a gift that says that this is a gift to the local humane society, they’re really pleased — they prefer that to me buying them a gift card to a restaurant. And I usually pick out something for each of my grandchildren and try to select something that they can relate to. I can explain to my granddaughter that this gift is going to provide a chicken or some kind of a farm animal in Africa, that [the recipient] can use it to help provide a living for [his or her] family — it’s truly the gift that keeps on giving. I find that the kids can really relate to this.”

In fact, says Swann, the Gift Market is popular for families who want to expose their children to a less commercialized version of Christmas.

“I bring my kids, as well, and it’s like they just open up to so many more possibilities — it’s like they realize they have the power to make a difference,” says Swann. “And we have a child’s shopping list where, for example, $2 goes toward a dozen eggs for a family, and they’ve got their allowance or a small amount of money. Just the look on their face is enough to know that it transforms them. It’s something they will always remember.”

Volunteers are always needed for the event. Swann says this year will be her last as organizer, so she is also currently looking for a replacement for next year. Interested parties can email her at



Alternative Gift Market

WHEN — 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Dec. 3

WHERE — St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 224 N. East Ave. in Fayetteville

COST — Free

INFO — 442-7373

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