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North Hills Monthly

Mission Mall Features Gifts that Give Back

Oct 31, 2014 12:53PM ● By Hilary Daninhirsch
The holidays are just around the corner, and shopping malls are gearing up for the onslaught of consumers looking for meaningful gifts. But what if this year you shopped with a purpose? What if you gave gifts that give back?

If this is your goal, perhaps your destination should not be a traditional shopping mall, but the Mission Mall, where you can find a veritable cornucopia of handmade and unique treasures ranging from jewelry to quilts to chocolates to wood carvings to coffee and much, much more.

Sponsored by St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Allison Park for six years running, the Mission Mall features tables upon tables of handcrafted goods from a variety of local and international nonprofits. All of the proceeds will benefit the nonprofits directly. In fact, the church does not charge any vendor for showcasing their wares at the Mission Mall, which is held each year on the Saturday before Thanksgiving.

Kate Neville of Ross founded the Mission Mall and works with St. Paul’s Mission Committee to pull it all together. The event grows by leaps and bounds each year. “Last one was the biggest one we’ve ever had,” reported Neville, noting that there will be over 20 vendors represented this November, who will likely have close to 40 tables of goods to display.

Some nonprofits represented include Ten Thousand Villages, a nonprofit fair trade organization that sells handmade items created by disadvantaged women artisans in developing countries, as well as Ugandan Gold, which sells fair trade coffee from Uganda. Another regular at the Mission Mall is BeadforLife.

Kathleen Ganster of Hampton has been a volunteer with BeadforLife for six years, representing that organization at the Mission Mall since its inception. Ganster explained that BeadforLife trains women in Uganda to become sustainable businesswomen; last year, 2,200 women went through the 24-month training program. The women learn to make jewelry out of beads, which are then sold throughout the world.

“I loved the idea that we are helping women raise themselves out of poverty. We look at it like a hand up, not a handout. We give them the tools to live,” said Ganster.

Most of the organizations at Mission Mall are international but more and more local groups are participating. For example, the First Presbyterian Church of Bakerstown will have quilts, totes and other goods handmade by church members; the profits will go back to the Honduras Hope Mission.

Also represented this year will be Treasure House Fashions, the North Hills-based organization that sells gently used clothing and partners with 60 agencies to help women in crisis; Greybrooke Garden Club, whose profits from the sale of bulbs and seeds are donated to nonprofits; and The Shepherd’s Door in Bellevue, one of Neville’s favorites.

“They’re a local ministry that sells a great variety of fair trade items so that they can run various programs in the community that help youth, such as afterschool tutoring, summer lunch programs and a performing arts camp,” she said.

And creativity runs rampant within St. Paul’s own walls. “Our own church has a group called Creative Hands—unbelievably creative people who make black and gold things, kitchen things, jewelry, American Girl doll clothes, and all kinds of cool stuff,” said Neville. “The money they raise goes to the Nyadire Mission in Zimbabwe.”

Most of the goods at the Mission Mall are reasonably priced, though Neville did say that some items may be a little more expensive, such as some pottery pieces. Some vendors do accept credit cards, but Neville advises to bring cash and/or a checkbook. Lunch is also available for purchase on the day of the event.

The Mission Mall also coincides with St. Paul’s annual Cookie Walk, allowing shoppers to purchase homemade cookies as well as handcrafted goods. “It’s such a fun day; the atmosphere in our Fellowship Hall is fabulous,” said Neville.

Ganster is an enthusiastic participant at Mission Mall. “All like-minded organizations are represented; everybody is doing some kind of worthwhile, good work. It’s a way to make meaningful purchases for Chanukah and Christmas, a way to give twice,” she said.

The Cookie Walk and Mission Mall will be held at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Allison Park on Saturday, November 22 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.