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Berea community ushers in Christmas With a Conscience

In the basement of the Union Church, a group of students, staff, faculty and townspeople gathered in full recognition of the many problems of the world. But it was not a time for gloom. It was a time of gracious giving.

Christmas with a Conscience: An Alternative Giving Market

The event was Christmas with a Conscience: An Alternative Giving Market. The celebration allowed people to donate to philanthropic organizations active locally and internationally. Student groups such as People Who Care and Oxfam Berea, along with the Campus Christian Center and Berea Ministerial Association, sponsored the event.

Junior Erin Finsel, co-president of Oxfam's Berea chapter, explained Christmas with a Conscience, “It's a way to spend money during the Christmas season that doesn't focus on consumerism, but instead helps out organizations and people in need.”

She continued, “At the event, there are even items for sale that are locally or fairly traded, suggesting that people be more aware of where the gifts they give come from.”

Held in the aptly named community room of the Union Church, Berea hosted several nonprofit organizations and charities such as Casa de Sol, Sierra Club, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, Pine Mountain Settlement School, and Oxfam. Each organization was represented by a booth with handouts, pictures, and a representative who explained the organization's mission to potential donors.

An exciting line-up of musical performers and poets entertained the attendants. Student musicians Sam Rosolina, Darrin Hacquard, Zac Danneman and the duos of Megan Naseman & Micah Perkins, along with Deborah & Vicki, came with gifts of unique vocal expressions. Student poets Elizabeth Vega and Christian Motley presented some of their original pieces. Professor Jeff Richey's band, MudPi, also presented songs from their repertoire.

Vega celebrated activism and alternative ways of life by proclaiming, “I want to start the revolution with laughter.”

Adding to the creativity of the event, at the Oxfam table, a silent auction was taking place. Some ethnic jewelry and small musical instruments like rattles tempted in bidders.

Figures of the total amount raised this year have not yet been tallied. But over past years, more than $7,000 has been raised at Christmas with a Conscience. One alternative minded consumer, Professor Meta Mendel-Reyes, looked through catalogues from an organization that donates animals and services to the needy around the world. She said that she was thinking about giving chickens in the name of her daughter.

Lilly Belanger, a student organizer and volunteer, summed up the spirit of the day perfectly, “Ideally, you are able to choose something [your loved ones] really care about, and make a personal gift that embraces the true giving spirit of Christmas.”

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