Community continues yearly charitable tradition in Alternative Gift Fair


Doctora Olid’s Spanish 6 class makes candles in preparation for the upcoming Alternative Gift Fair.

Rows of students, parents, and alumni line the hallways of Barge Commons. They chat with students at various colored booths, buying anything from homemade candles to raffle tickets to hot-chocolate mixes. The Alternative Gift Fair is a yearly event at Westminster that allows over 400 students and local non-profit organizations to spread awareness for their causes and raise money. This year, the fair was held on Friday, Dec. 3, from 5 to 7 p.m. in Barge Commons.

“This event, hosted by Westminster, encourages students of all ages to practice using their creativity and talents to sell gifts that go to an organization with a cause that is personal to them,” said junior Hadley Foust, one of the student vendors this year.

This seasonal favorite among students and faculty has been a tradition for 15 years. It is a way for multiple organizations to come together to sell products and for students and families to have fun. Jessica Dent, program coordinator of the Glenn Institute, who has been the head coordinator of this event for the last four years, was particularly excited about this year, as 2019 was the last time the fair was held in person due to the pandemic. For safety reasons, the fair organizers decided that all participants should continue wearing masks during the fair this year.

“As we return to this big in-person event, I hope everyone’s cautious of everyone else, but we still want everyone to learn and have fun,” said Dent.

Last year, the organizers dealt with the pandemic-imposed restrictions by doing a gift guide. The modified event was supported by 400 students, family members, and faculty and was a success, ending up with the vendors raising a total of $11,812 for various charities. 

As with every year, multiple organizations were represented this year as well. Charities like Cause for a Cure and the Humane Society returned in this year’s event. The fair took place in the warm atmosphere of Barge Commons, and perks like free hot chocolate and seasonal music enhanced the charming ambiance for the participants and visitors. 

The Alternative Gift Fair isn’t just beneficial to the charities and families in attendance but also provides students with good experience in marketing. Participants have to advertise the event and manage the proceeds.

“This is a good opportunity for students to learn how to make a profit because they need to price their items so that they will make enough money to both pay for all the materials it took to make the items as well as send the rest of the money to the organization,” said Foust. “Also, students typically find ways to advertise what they are doing for their organization such as through Wildcat Updates or WCAT, so the bigger the turnout, the better.” 

Foust’s Spanish translation class made candles and 3D printed spray-painted candle holders, and 100 percent of the proceeds will go to Cure Childhood Cancer. This organization supports children with cancer and funds pediatric cancer research. The Spanish translation class has already been involved with the organization this year, as they translated personal letters to families with children undergoing treatment for terminal illnesses. 

Twenty-five student groups were vendors this year, each partnered with a different organization, and each with a unique item to sell, ranging from candy Santas to candles and homemade mugs. Many of the products sold make nice stocking stuffers or regular Christmas gifts. Students and vendors alike await the items for sale with growing anticipation, and many are excited for the shopping and fun atmosphere of the fair, which makes the fair largely successful. In fact, some organizations who came to the fair, like Westminster’s Circle of Women chapter, ended up earning as much as $650 from their sales there. 

“Last year, I went with my family, and everyone was there,” said sophomore Saanjali Ganesh. “It was a fun event that most people in the grade went to, so it was nice to get to talk to my friends while walking around looking for gifts.” 

She attended for two hours and said that her goal was to get stocking stuffers for her friends and family but ended up finding even more. 

“My friend was a vendor that year,” said Ganesh. “She was making these beautiful headbands to raise money for the Atlanta Wildlife Refuge, and I bought a couple for myself. I got a gorgeous pair of earrings for my mom and some cute mugs for my friends.” 

Other students, like sophomore Ellie Myers, have integrated the Alternative Gift Fair into some of their family’s holiday traditions.

“We have gone for three years, and every time we go, it’s a really fun experience, and it’s a nice atmosphere just to walk around, browse for gifts, and to be with people. We didn’t go last year due to COVID, so I’m really looking forward to being able to go,” said Myers.

In addition to this being the first in-person gift fair since 2019, the new atmosphere of Barge Commons enticed and welcomed families into this much more spacious environment compared to Malone, where it has been held in the previous years. 

This memorable experience was advertised on WCAT and on fliers and posters around campus. Students and families were encouraged to attend, as it was a great way to raise money and awareness for a cause, all while having fun with friends and family.