By Gwen O’Brien
NOTRE DAME — The Office for Civic and Social Engagement (OCSE) at Saint Mary’s College will host its third annual Christmas Craft Show on Friday, Dec. 11, from noon until 6 p.m., in LeMans Hall. The bazaar helps to raise funds for OCSE’s Twelve Days of Christmas program, an effort that provides holiday gifts and necessities to area families and individuals in need.
The show features the creative talents of local crafters. The vendor fees are donated in support of the Twelve Days program, and some vendors choose to donate all or part of their proceeds to the cause. The more successful the craft show is, the more people OCSE can help this holiday season. Last year 25 families and 25 individuals benefited, and with the recession affecting so many more people this year, OCSE hopes to have an even bigger impact this time.
The show is a win-win for the South Bend region, says Carrie Call, director of OCSE.
“We support the community by supporting the local artists, and we support families in need through the Twelve Days program,” explains Call. “A craft show is a unique way to reach one of the Office for Civic and Social Engagements’ primary goals: to support the community in which Saint Mary’s resides.”
Unique crafters include an artisan from South Bend, who handcrafted an alphabet made of garden flowers and scanned them into her computer. She uses the letters to make floral word prints. A jewelry maker from Granger will be selling pieces from her collection, which features glass pendants with inspirational messages like “Celebrate Life,” “Say your prayers,” “Find your voice and sing,” and “Live your poem.”
There’s also a South Bend man who makes jewelry out of antique silverware. Pens made from knife handles are among his unusual offerings. Shoppers will also find everything from hand-painted wooden furniture to knitted items made from the wool of alpacas the artist raises on her property. In all there will be at least 50 booths.
The local agencies and schools that partner with OCSE throughout the academic year choose the recipients of the holiday help. These agencies and schools include Catholic Charities, the Salvation Army, REAL Services and select Title 1 schools in South Bend.
“I’ve seen firsthand how the Saint Mary’s Twelve Days of Christmas program helps people,” says Carla Killelea, principal at Warren Primary Center, who identified some who could use the holiday help. OCSE has a long-standing relationship with the school as Saint Mary’s students put in hours there as teachers’ assistants and tutors.
“One mother who received Christmas gifts last year told me it was the first time in eight years she and her children woke up on Christmas morning and everyone had presents,” Killelea said. “She told me she watched the joy that morning and promised herself to do better in the world and to get sober. The gifts made her realize that she could trust people again and that they needed to be able to trust her. When her children returned to our school in January, they were happier and talked about Christmas as though it were a miracle.”
Saint Mary’s students involved in the program say the experience is a lesson in humanity. “Being a part of Twelve Days of Christmas is absolutely amazing,” said Alma Bravo of South Bend. “I am not only a helper, but a witness to the generosity that the Saint Mary’s community shows through the giving of their time, talents and treasures. Everyone becomes united in a loving and caring spirit. The best part is seeing the happy faces of the families who receive these gifts because you know they are receiving the message that someone cares.”
It’s the third year for the Christmas Craft Show and the sixth year for the Twelve Days of Christmas program.
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