By ROB W. ANDERSON
Area Christmas shoppers had a chance to pick up gifts at two arts and crafts bazaars last weekend and help two worthy causes in the process.
An arts and crafts market was held at the Cherokee County Community Building to raise money and awareness for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, while the First Presbyterian Church hosted a Fair Trade Christmas Bazaar to help provide living wages for farmers and artisans in 35 underdeveloped countries.
Om Hippie-Chique Boutique co-owner Linda Jones-Maharaj lost her 21-year-old daughter, Melinda Ann Dickson, to lymphoma cancer on Sept. 2, 2002. She helped establish the Tahlequah Holiday Bazaar event to not only raise money for LLS, but to increase awareness about the cancer that impacts the lymphatic, or immune, system.
Jones-Maharaj and her husband, Bobby, have been arts and crafts vendors for several years and wanted to do something in memory of Melinda. They have made money donations to LLS, but after coming in contact with so many who did not know what lymphoma is, they decided to dispense information through the arts and crafts marketplace.
“We moved up here from McAlester a couple of years ago, and we were debating, do we donate to the local hospice – do we want to get involved that way because the hospice was really good in Austin to help us with my daughter in her last days,” said Jones-Maharaj. “I had a restaurant in Austin, and we lost Melinda in Austin. So we tossed around what can we do, what can we do?”
Once they were vendors long enough to learn how to promote their own wares, they decided to take matters into their own hands.
“Not only are we raising money to donate, but we’re also increasing awareness in the community that there is a need for more research on lymphoma cancer,” she said. “So many people – still to this day – ask me, ‘How’d you lose your daughter?’ and I’ll start telling them that I lost her to lymphoma, and they’ll say, ‘What’s that?’ So many people still don’t know what lymphoma is, or even what leukemia is. They’ll say they’ve heard of leukemia, but they don’t really know what that is. And for sure they don’t understand what lymphoma is. So I have to explain to them.”
The bazaar presented 44 vendors chosen by Jones-Maharaj and her husband. All offered handmade items with a few distributorship products, like Kountry Candles, Scentsy and Pampered Chef.
They decided to make the move last year.
“With my husband and I being on the road, we went around and handpicked our vendors. We do a lot of shows in Arkansas, Kansas and Oklahoma,” Jones-Maharaj said. “I didn’t want it to be just a regular show. [We looked for] uniqueness. I wanted to limit the jewelry and put in a lot of handmade items.”
Aside from having access to particular items – such as hand-carved knives made of deer antler, wire workings or wine produced in the area – patrons received an information card with educational details about lymphoma. Lymphoma does not discriminate and is often diagnosed in young adults between the ages of 16 and 34 and the elderly. For those who want to make a donation or learn more about LLS, the card prompts the reader to contact Jones-Maharaj or visit the LLS website at www.LLS.org.
The Fair Trade Christmas Bazaar at First Presbyterian Church showcased rare gifts from around the world. It was the third year for the event, which is a mission project, said volunteer Annette Haskins.
“There’s a variety of stuff every year. We do not make any money on the event, and we pretty much sell out every year,” she said. “Every single thing here is made or produced by artisans or farmers from the country that is identified on the table where the products are displayed. We have nothing here that is not made by a cooperative in a foreign country. They have cooperatives in some of the poor areas of the United States, but this year, we didn’t happen to end up with any of those products.”
According to online descriptions, a fair trade cooperative is a group of people who agree to work together to sell a product by following fair trade principles in a way that benefits the group’s members. Cooperative members share resources and profits and agree to charge the same price for their product rather than compete against one another. The coops follow fair trade principles when setting prices and increase the amount of money paid to laborers and producers, such as farmers and craftsmen, to allow cooperative members to earn a living wage for their efforts. Responsible environmental practices are used when producing products, as well.
“This gives them money to reseed or open new cooperatives in different countries and expand what they’re doing,” said Haskins. “They’re always trying to find niches where it’s a poverty area, where they can stimulate the economy.”
Bazaar volunteer Margaret White said patrons are getting what they pay for when shopping at the bazaar.
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