SERRV Bazaar continues its impact

News Photo by Diane Speer Shown above is a selection of some of the new items to offered at this year’s SERRV Bazaar. The sale will be held Friday from 2-6 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

Artisans in 35 countries around world, including under-privileged parts of the United States, benefit every year from the SERRV Bazaar held at First Congregational United Church of Christ. This weekend marks the 43rd annual sale that continues to impact lives in each of those countries.

According to Marcia Aten, a key SERRV volunteer for many years, every purchase at the bazaar directly helps improve working conditions, access to healthcare and education for the artisans and their families by offering them fair wages for their crafts.

“There’s always a wonderful assortment of baskets, wooden crafts, pottery and textiles,” said Aten of the varied items for sale from around the world. “In recent years, our Fair Trade chocolate has been popular as have the coffee, tea and other food items.”

The sale is slated for Friday from 2-6 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at the church, located at 201 S. Second.

Aten can’t remember precisely how many years she has helped with the bazaar it’s been so long. She does recall Ruth Rosenthaler (now deceased) and Diana Kelly, who first got her involved. She said the two women carried the bazaar forward for many years until she took over, and that these days she’s also hoping to eventually pass the torch on to someone else.

“We’re inviting new people with fresh ideas to take over,” Aten said. “With new leadership comes new energy.”

Among those tapped to help is Edith Gerber, who moved back to the Alpena area upon on her retirement and now is in charge of ordering the products for the bazaar. She’s the daughter of Rosenthaler, which Aten sees as a meaningful connection to the past.

While First Congregational doesn’t hear personally from any of the artisans whose items are sold at the bazaar, Aten said individual stories about the impact of the program can be found on the SERRV website,

The items available range from as little $1 a piece for chocolate bars up to as high as $120 or $125 for handmade bedspreads or small pieces of furniture.

“Most are in the $15 to $75 range,” Aten said.

The church orders and pays for the items from the SERRV organization. Proceeds made during the bazaar are then used to buy next year’s SERRV items. On occasion, the proceeds have been high enough that the church has also been able to make donations to the SERRV Foundation that helps artisans get set up in the program and or start over if a disaster such as hurricane wipes them out, Aten said.