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Emily Whittier and Marty Lawson with craft items for a bazaar at Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church.
Daily photo by John Godbey
Emily Whittier and Marty Lawson with craft items for a bazaar at Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church.

Bazaar bonanza
Women cook, do crafts to raise money for churches

By Melanie B. Smith
msmith@decaturdaily.com · 340-2468

The church ladies knit, crochet, sew and do crafts for months. They cook and freeze cakes, casseroles and other goodies. And then they sell it all and make a lot of money for their church.

At least that is how things seemed to work in the past.

Church bazaars and similar events were once ubiquitous. Are they successful today when so many women, who traditionally put on the events, work outside the home and have limited time for cooking and crafting? And do the sales bring in any serious cash?

The bazaar and bake sale tradition still carries on at churches like St. John's Episcopal and Wesley Memorial United Methodist in Decatur.

Marty Lawson of Wesley said many women are hand-crafting items for the church's first Holiday Bazaar in several decades.

Lawson said women in Wesley's Piece Makers quilting group and Knit Wits knitting group have created pieces like scarves and quilts. Others have made bath salts, hand-dyed accessories, fashioned jewelry, grown orchids and made Christmas decorations. Men have joined in the work, making 50 birdhouses to sell.

St. John's Episcopal Church's "Simply Divine" sale has continued for years. Casseroles made and frozen by church women usually "fly out," said Laurie Davis. Desserts, soups and rolls also are also popular, she said.

Both churches will have their sales Nov. 17.

Lawson said she wanted to revive Wesley's bazaar as a fall fundraiser, and member Kay Wadsworth agreed to serve as co-chairperson.

"I wanted to be able to use my creativity in sewing in God's service," Lawson said. "I also wanted to inject a fresh approach to raising money for missions."

Lawson sewed children's superhero capes, aprons and other items.

Wadsworth said the project is a first for her but she loves crafts. In workshops at the church on Mondays and Wednesdays in October, she led volunteers to make jewelry, 3-D cards and other products, she said. United Methodist Women also did craft sessions, said Wadsworth, who works part time at Parkway Medical Center in marketing. She said donations have come in slowly, but she's expecting more before sale time.

Emily Whittier said the bazaar is new to her, too. A part-time biology instructor at Calhoun Community College, she helped Kay Keil dye silk scarves to sell. Whittier said even people with jobs enjoyed doing crafts to help a good cause.

In addition to the creations by members, Wesley is adding crafts from around the world. Sojourns Fair Trade Store in Birmingham will bring textiles, pottery, home décor and many handmade items from such countries as Bangladesh, Guatemala, Uganda and Vietnam.

Melissa Kendrick of the shop said she gives groups like Wesley 10 percent of sales.

St. Paul's struggle

Some women putting on sales admit it is harder to keep them going.

St. Paul's Lutheran Church had its bake sale, bazaar and spaghetti supper Friday, but chairperson Bobbie Seibert said it could be the last one. Most of the women involved are in their mid-60s or older and can't keep it up, she said.

"It takes so much work," Seibert said.

A teacher is taking off from her job to cook, Seibert said. Other women bake, and one man makes wooden crafts to sell, but fewer people are able to work the event, she said. More women work and retirees are helping with grandchildren's activities, Seibert said.

The two Lutheran Women's Missionary League groups that put on the event are shrinking in number, she said.

Whither the profits?

Money can mount up from church bazaars and other sales, but for some, proceeds are declining.

The bazaar and supper at St. Paul's once brought in $5,000 to $6,000, but profits have been less recently, Seibert said.

Lawson said the goal for Wesley's Holiday Bazaar is a modest $500, although she's hoping for more. Wesley already does a spring Marketplace that also involves men and youths. It once brought in $4,000 for mission trips but has not made as much lately, Lawson said.

St. John's event, put on by Episcopal Church Women, has made about $2,000 in past years, Davis said.

Lawson said times may be changing and people may not value handmade things, but she hopes that is not true. She said one Knoxville church just made $7,000 on its bazaar.

Local women's groups that put on bazaars and sales use the money for mission work, youth outreach, seminary student aid and similar work, organizers said.

Seibert said if St. Paul's drops its bazaar and supper, women may have to reach into their pockets to support projects.

Church holiday sales

St. John’s Episcopal Church Simply Divine sale, 202 Gordon Drive S.E., Nov. 17, 8 to 11 a.m. Baked goods, frozen casseroles and other homemade foods. Proceeds will benefit St. John’s ministries. Call 353-9615.

Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church Holiday Bazaar, Nov. 17, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., McWhorter Hall. Crafts, Soujourns Fair Trade Store, Christmas decorations, baked goods, birdhouses, jewelry and more. Brunswick stew lunch. Proceeds will go to missions. Call 355-1842.

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