Pennsylvania College of Technology hosted an Alternative Gift Fair from Nov. 16 to 18 in the Bush Campus Center. The event was organized by undergraduates and offered the opportunity for community members to donate to local charities and buy gifts crafted by artisans from all over the world.
Students involved in planning and running the event were primarily human services majors.
The major includes "social workers, counseling, probation work - the helping field," said Holly Ulrich, a junior from Bloomsburg.
JOSH BROKAW/Sun-Gazette Correspondent
Pennsylvania College of Technology students who participated in the Alternative Gift Fair from Nov. 16 to 18 on campus included, from left, Jared Corman, junior, from Bellefonte; Holly Ulrich, junior, from Bloomsburg; Shanie Parks, junior, from Williamsport; and Nicole Riley, senior, from Milton.
Eight local charities were represented at the fair, sponsored by Gifts That Give Hope, an alternative giving nonprofit founded in Mechanicsburg in 2007.
Each group presented donors with three giving packages, at $10, $25 and $50.
Among the wide range of giving opportunities were personal care kits, meals for shelter residents, wheelchair batteries, eyeglasses, gas cards and gift certificates for music lessons.
"It's been really good so far. Draws a lot of alumni back, and teachers," said Jared Corman, a junior from Bellefonte.
Family Promise of Lycoming County was one of the charities present. The collective of churches assists the homeless unemployed with shelter and transportation until they can find other arrangements.
"We have a day center on Sherman Street where people can shower and get ready for their day," said volunteer Yvonne Shenuski. The organization has about 600 volunteers.
Shepherd of the Streets, among other services, puts together packages of toiletries for the homeless.
"We are always in need of hygiene items," said volunteer Joyce Smith.
The Community Alliance for Progressive Political Action, the Center for Independent Living, Favors Forward, North Central Sight Services, the Needlework Guild of America and West House also participated.
"The students brought agencies to class and we selected eight to work with," said Larue Reese, assistant professor of Integrated Studies.
The class, Service Learning and Sociology, is offered every other year and requires that students organize a community project. This was its first year working with Gifts That Give Hope.
Learning to work in committees, including volunteer coordination, public relations and finance, is a large part of the hands-on experience students gain, said Reese.
By mid-Thursday, the fair had raised about $800 in donations to the eight local charities.
"We hope to grow it if the next class repeats, but it's overall been successful so far," said Nicole Riley, a senior from Milton.
Goods crafted by artisans and distributed by Ten Thousand Villages were on sale. This aspect of the fair was organized by human services students taking Community and Organizational Change.
The class has worked with the international nonprofit to bring the handiwork of artisans to campus for more than a decade, said Reese.
Items available included change purses made in Vietnam and Nepal, decorative owls from Egypt, totes and shawls from India, and baskets from Bangladesh and Uganda.
Handcarved Cameroonian "rattling fish" and pipe cleaner statues from Kenya also were on display.