The Bridges of Hope Gift Shop in Mount Vernon offers unique, handcrafted gifts from all over the world, each with its own compelling story.
Bridges of Hope is a member of the Fair Trade Federation. Fair trade is a social movement that helps artisans and agricultural producers in developing countries get paid a fair price for their work and ensure social and environmentally friendly working conditions. As an FTF member, Bridges of Hope continual undergoes a rigorous screening process to ensure adherence to Fair Trade principles.
Items for sale include decorative art, jewelry, bags, baskets, carved figurines, nativity scenes, coffees and chocolates, and much more. Countries of origin include Ecuador, Nicaragua, Haiti, Zimbabwe, Indonesia, Guatemala, Kenya, India, Nepal, and Papau New Guinea, among others.
“We try to let customers know where everything came from and who made them,” says Nancy Case, a board member, volunteer, and buyer who has been with Bridges of Hope since the beginning. “We try include a lot of info with the items,” she says. “It adds interest to shopping, and people giving gifts especially like it.”
Popular items include handbags from Ghana, nativity scenes, recovered metal art from Haiti and Nicaragua, and jewelry and carvings made from the Tagua nut.
“Tagua comes from the nut of a huge palm-like tree in the Ecquadoran rain forest,” says Nancy. “It looks and feels like ivory, and is carved for jewelry and animal figurines. It’s good for the environment because instead of cutting down the rainforest, people can use the trees to sustain themselves.”
“Tagua is a big seller in the shop.” she says. “People enjoy learning about the origins and craftsmanship behind it.”
Knitted animals from Zimbabwe are also popular, and have an interesting story behind them as well. The church had sent a team to work with AIDS orphans, and they discovered women in the village making the knitted animals, so they set up a trade deal.
“The thing I love most about Fair Trade is the people I meet,” says Nancy. They are all so generous and sharing.”
Bridges of Hope began as an idea from a former pastor’s wife who liked the local crafts while on a church mission to New Guinea. The store itself started out small, with just a few items placed on a cart that was wheeled out for special occasions. Now it has a generous space and they also travel for certain shows and festivals in the area.
Ninety percent of the money from sales is used to buy more inventory; 10 percent is used to help fund church missions. Bridges of Hope is part of the First United Methodist Church and doesn’t pay rent, utilities or salaries; so all profits used for helping people.
The gift shop is located on the College Avenue side of the church grounds, near the playground.
Bridges of Hope Fair Trade Gift Shop
First United Methodist Church
601 Main Street, Mount Vernon, IN
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