By CARL MARIO NUDI
Christmas is the season of giving, and many people like to do their gift shopping early to avoid the crowds.
Kirkwood Church, 6101 Cortez Road W., in Bradenton, will host its 24th annual Christmas Market from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 9, providing early shoppers a place to find the perfect gift for family and friends and help nonprofit organizations at the same time.
Seventeen local, national and international nonprofits each will host a booth at the Christmas Market where shoppers can learn about the work they do in the community, and make a donation or sign up to volunteer.
“It started as a fair where we would host this event that was open to the public, and people can come and learn about different nonprofits,” said Carolyn Roskamp, coordinator for mission and outreach programs for the church.
“People could consider volunteering for them, it could help raise awareness about who the nonprofits are serving and the needs of their community, and also there was the fundraising aspect where the organizations can raise some money,” Roskamp said. “It’s grown over time and we tried to make it more like a true Christmas market where it’s all festive with decorations and music.”
As the Christmas Market date approaches, lead pastor of Kirkwood The Rev. Hope Lee is excited about what it has done for the community in the past.
“It’s an entirely local community focus that reaches larger organizations out in the world, and I think it’s a very unique event,” said Lee, who has been at Kirkwood with her husband, The Rev. Sung Lee, for 10 years. “One of the coolest things that I’ve seen in the last 10 years is getting to highlight brand new nonprofit ministry startups.”
She said the church’s annual Christmas Market helps the smaller nonprofit organizations receive some exposure.
“Everyone in Bradenton knows Tidewell, and we invite Tidewell to come, but some smaller organizations just don’t get the opportunity to have face time with the public,” said Hope, who has been a minister for 17 years.
Roskamp said the event started as a mission fair with the goal of having people come and learn about different nonprofits.
“It’s grown over time, and we tried to make it more like a true Christmas market where it’s all festive,” she said.
“While the nonprofits don’t have to bring tangible items to sell, those that do tend to raise more money,” said Roskamp, who has been organizing the Christmas Market since 2004.
“But it’s not all about the money,” she said. “It really is about just trying to increase awareness.”
The church provides the nonprofit organizations with a table in the community hall and a banner with its name.
Each nonprofit has a price sheet with the cost of various services the organization provides, such as a counseling session, and the shopper could purchase a whole counseling session or a portion of it.
“Say, they want to sponsor or support five of the organizations, so for each one they get a gift card that they fill out to let ‘Aunt Sally’ or another loved one know that they made either a donation or purchased a gift in their honor and the proceeds all go to that nonprofit,” Roskamp said. “So they’ll have a gift card and the gift or just the gift card that indicates that an honorary gift was made.”
The shopper does not pay at each booth, but takes the filled out shopping form to a central cashier.
“Everybody only has to write one check, or we take credit cards,” Roskamp said. “They pay once, and we make copies of the shopping forms that they fill out, and that way we can reconcile all the purchases, and it always works out.”
Kirkwood does not charge for having a booth at the market, but does ask each organization to bake three dozen cookies to be sold in the cookie and dessert room.
“For years, Hometown Desserts (in Anna Maria) has donated a cake, and when that goes through the room everyone goes ‘oooh,’” Roskamp said. “Things like that generate a little more interest and makes it a little more Christmassy and makes it fun.”
There also is a gift room stocked with items from the international group, Ten Thousand Villages.
“They help artisans from around the world who are in poverty situations,” Roskamp said. “The artisans make crafts and Ten Thousand Villages contract with them to take their crafts and wares and sell them for them, and they get the money back.”
The nonprofit organizations also are asked to bring a door prize.
When the shopper goes through the cashier they get to draw for a chance to win one of 17 door prizes.
“It’s sort of fun,” Roskamp said.
She said the organization that has been at the Christmas Market the longest was Hope Seeds.
“We worked together with them for a long time before starting the fair,” Roskamp said. “Kirkwood parishioners would volunteer to package seeds for the Hope Seeds group, then when the fair started they started to participate.”
The church also has a partnership with one of the newer groups at the market, Hope 4 Communities.
“We were invited because we’re known for our Days 4 Hope events, and Kirkwood is going to be hosting that program next summer,” said Pam Hawn, founder and executive director of Hope 4 Communities. “We’re looking to jumpstart Kirkwood’s sponsorship of Day 4 Hope.”
All of the money collected at the Christmas Market will go toward Kirkwood’s Day 4 Hope event next summer, she said.
The Sarasota-based group has helped homeless and needy children with a back-to-school event on a local church campus in Sarasota and Manatee counties the last two weekends of July and the first weekend of August every year since 2009.
“Each child receives a medical exam, dental exam/cleaning and floss treatment, eye exam, haircut, school and family portrait, new backpack filled with all the needed school supplies, a care bag of personal care items, a $50 gift card for new clothes/school uniform, a $25 Payless gift card for shoes and meals throughout the day,” according to the Hope 4 Communities website.
Kirkwood Church had been working with Seabreeze Elementary School, 3601 71st St. W., helping students with tutoring and other services, so partnering with the Days 4 Hope event was a natural fit, Roskamp said.
Kiwanis also will have their bus parked on the patio outside the Christmas Market and will be giving away free children’s books, while the Kirkwood youth group will run a grill selling hot dogs and chips to raise funds for their mission trip next summer.
There also will be tours of the Kirkwood community garden and children’s library.
The Christmas Market started in 1996 when a church member, Rosemary Werner, went to visit her daughter in the Panhandle.
She started an organizing committee that ran the nonprofit fair at Kirkwood.
Roskamp’s husband, Steve, was on the committee, and after Werner passed away in 2004, he realized when the end of summer came that they had not prepared for the next market.
So Carolyn and Steve Roskamp took over the organizing of the event.
Helping with the event are committee members Charlotte Thielen and Judy and Roger Shultz.
“Once we get to the event day, they are in charge of everything,” Carolyn said.
At least 25 church members volunteer to help, along with a group from Palma Sola Presbyterian Church, who cook breakfast and lunch for the people running the booths and event volunteers.
Last year’s Christmas Market raised over $9,000.
Kirkwood Church was started in 1981 and moved into their church in 1985.
“Kirkwood is a mission-oriented church,” Steve said.
Every month the church distributes a list of needed items for a different nonprofit organization, and the congregation purchases and places the items in a Wishing Well at the church for the group.
Kirkwood also sometimes helps the organization with financial aid.
“Everything we try to do is to help us focus on how to serve,” Steve said.
For more information about the Kirkwood Church Christmas Market, call 941-794-6229, or visit its website at www.kpcbradenton.org.