Sunday morning coffee hour
It all began with coffee. For many in our denominational community, coffee is an important part of congregational life. We joke about its place as our true "communion" beverage, but there it is! Coffee, however, has been the subject of hugely unfair trade practices in some of the poorest countries of the world. The large coffee cartels are able to manipulate the world coffee market and drive down the price of coffee, returning "profits" to small farmers that do not sustain subsistence even at the poverty level.
The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC) has established a relationship with Equal Exchange, a not-for-profit manager of coffee importation that eliminates the middlemen for farmer-owned coffee cooperatives in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. They are able then to return fair prices for the coffee, committing to a minimum sustainable price per pound. They also trade tea and chocolate.
The UUSC Coffee Project will help individual congregations to establish a coffee-tea program, selling it for consumption at church functions, selling gift baskets at holiday time, or selling coffee and tea to congregants for their home use.
Contact: www.equalexchange.org/uusc, "Coffee Project." Congregations order from UUSC.
Fair Trade Fair
Several congregations have expanded the coffee program by staging a "Fair Trade Fair" at holiday time and/or around World Fair Trade Day, May 12. They usually contract to buy goods at wholesale prices from organizations selling fair trade crafts, gifts, clothing, and food items.
These organizations have been engaged by Chicago-area congregations (in all cases, using the e-mail contact from the website is the way to begin a relationship with them):
*Ten Thousand Villages (www.tenthousandvillages.org) offers a venue for fair trade organizations to market their wares, from textiles, to pottery and giftables, food, and jewelry. SERVV is one of their main distributors. They offer goods on consignment from the nearest retail store.
*Bright Hope (www.brighthope.org), a Christian community organization working through local churches to help the poor get on their feet and self-sustaining, offers a variet of gifts
*Colores del Pueblo (www.coloresdelpueblo.org) offers textiles and gifts by Latin American craftspeople.
*The Enterprising Kitchen (www.theenterprisingkitchen.org) does lovely soaps and bath salts and oils.
*Market Place of India (www.marketplaceindia.org) is located in Evanston. They market women's and men's clothing, home textiles, and jewelry.
*MayaWorks of Guatemala (www.mayaworks.org) markets jewelry, giftware, bags, and woven items.
*The Palestinian Fair Trade Association (www.pal-arc.org) markets a lovely olive oil
*The Women's Bean Project (www.womensbeanproject.com) does a variety of dried bean mixes for soup.
*WomanCraft is an outreach program of Deborah's Place in Chicago (www.deborahsplace.org), a social service agency which assists homeless women. They create handmade papers, stationery, albums, and picture frames.
The International Fair Trade Organization (www.ifat.org) also offers resources.
Congregations who have held "Fair Trade Fairs": DeKalb, Countryside, DuPage, Evanston, First Society Chicago, Rockford, and Woodstock. Contact administrators to link you to a name.
Some congregations expanded this idea by offering the opportunity to donate to a charity as a gift, selling such "gifts" as one day's expenses at a homeless shelter, or tree seedlings and animals for Heifer International (www.Heifer.org). These purchases were recognized with hand-made cards to give to the person in whose name the donation was made.
Most of the fair trade organizations lsited above market a card which may be "bought" with a donation to the organization -- the perfect gift for the person who says "Oh, don't buy me anything!" One congregation staged an "Alternative Gift Fair" at holiday time, offering hand-made cards for folks' donations to a homeless shelter, Heifer International, and other organizations -- it was a lovely way to find the meaning in our gifting seasons.
Winter Farmers' Markets
Several congregations have opened their doors in winter to the "Harvest of Hope" from Churches Center for Land and People. Congregations who have hosted a "Harvest of Hope" event include Elgin (hopes a Sunday
afternoon fair) Beverly, and Third (both hosted Saturday fairs)
The Churches' Center for Land and People (www.cclpmidwest.org) is a local organization integrating the values of Earth, Stewardship, Community, and Justice. Ten percent of funds raised by Harvest of Hope go to helping small farm families who are usingnatural and sustainable practices.
For your fair, farmers (Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana) bring in natural meats (chicken , ham, beef, pork), cheeses, honey, maple syrup, sorghum syrup, dried fruit (apples, cherries, peaches, apricots, blueberries, strawberries), eggs, yogurt, apple cider, cream cheese, salsas, fruit preserves, soups, and pasta sauces, organic flours and popcorn, wool and yarn, goat milk soaps, and more. They also bring crafts from natural fabrics: quilts, knitted goods, candles, and more. It's quite a spread and brings a feeling of abundance and celebration to the middle of winter!
Churches Center also helps to arrange coop memberships in local organic farms: For acontribution, you can buy and receive delivery (at a central point) of the farmer's produce for a year. Congregations can act as broker and point of delivery for their members and community.