Gifts that Increase the Durability of our Community

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Tompkins Weekly 11-30-15

By Devan Rosen

Although each day holds many things to be thankful for, it is the chilly days approaching the winter solstice, and the holidays that surround it, that create a particularly welcome milieu for warm thanks. Expressing our thanks and love to the many people that enrich our lives is one of the most valuable things we can do, and having a time of the year where so many cultures and communities use the confluence of celebration and introspection to shine a particularly bright light on the act of expressing these thanks creates a large vessel.

IAGF LogoIt is no surprise that we seek meaningful ways to fill this vessel with something that commemorates our gratitude for those we love, but it can be difficult to find something that can do this. For the past 11 years, thousands of people have attended the annual Ithaca Alternative Gift Fair (IAGF) to find meaningful ways to express their love or thanks in the form of a gift. These alternative gifts are special; they are not just a gift for the people that receive them, they are also a gift to countless others in our community and beyond. The concept is simple, and since the IAGF is a festive community event that brings together locally based non-profit organizations with hundreds of attendees, the process is just as simple.

When attending the Ithaca Alternative Gift Fair on December 5th at The Space @ GreenStar, shoppers can interact with a representative from all 54 participating non-profit organizations. The contribution is to the non-profit, but the gift is actually to the those the organization is helping. For example, providing healthy snacks for hungry children, helping to provide medical care for a neighbor in need, or protecting local drinking water. There are hundreds of different gifts in dollar amounts ranging from $5 to $50, as well as the opportunity to designate any amount over $50. With so many different types of organizations offering a multitude of gifts, it is easy to pair specific missions to individuals in our lives, allowing for an individualized feel for each gift. Participating organizations make greeting card inserts for each gift, describing the organization and the specific gift. A complimentary greeting card, locally made by Acorn Designs, is available to accompany each insert. All of the organizations and gifts can be viewed at the website, where gifts can continue to be purchased after the fair until December 31st. However, gift inserts and complimentary greeting cards are only available at the event on December 5th.

The Center for Transformative Action (CTA) has been a generous partner and the main fiscal sponsor of the IAGF from the very beginning. As such, shoppers make a single payment to CTA as they check out and receive a single receipt for tax deduction use, instead of making a separate payment to each organization they support and filing each contribution separately. CTA then distributes the contributions to the organizations.

Providing charitable contributions as an alternative for gift giving helps to reduce the accumulation of stuff and the pressure that can accompany the expectation to purchase unnecessary things. Part of the mission of an alternative gift fair is to help to reduce consumerism and waste. However, this mission exists as a compliment to the many excellent locally owned shops that offer many options to purchase meaningful physical gifts, and supporting our local economy is also an important part of sustainability. The IAGF provides our community with a fun and convenient way to contribute to the betterment of our community during the season of gift giving.

Over the past 11 years the IAGF has raised over $540,000 for locally based non-profits, making it one of the most successful alternative gift fairs in the country! The success of the IAGF is a testament to the incredible communities in Tompkins County. The event is coordinated by volunteers, staffed by volunteers, with participating organizations that are frequently run by volunteers. With so much community cooperation it is no surprise that so many people see the IAGF as their favorite holiday event and preferred way to procure gifts. The Ithaca area can be characterized by collaboration and altruism, and the IAGF is a great way to celebrate this characterization. The fair is an all volunteer effort, and new members of the organizing committee are a critical need for the fair to continue, contact to join the team.

The 12th Annual Ithaca Alternative Gift Fair will be held on December 5th at The Space @ GreenStar from 11am to 6pm. There is plenty of parking, vehicles enter at the intersection of Court St. and Fulton St. (13 South), look for the large green “The Space @ GreenStar” sign on the wood wall along the railroad tracks. The Space is a new location for the Ithaca Alternative Gift Fair, and this year all participating organizations are brought together into one space, bringing the people and positive energy into one room. The Ithaca Alternative Gift Fair offers one of the foundations of sustainability, the durability of a community.

Devan Rosen is a member of the Ithaca Alternative Gift Fair organizing committee.



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