West Virginia Church Promotes Fair Trade

A Display of Pal Craftaid Olivewood and other items at Hope Village

When Hope Village reopens its doors this fall, Mary Kay Boyle will likely be behind the counter, telling stories, or, stocking shelves with fairly traded goods from nine countries, including Ghana, India, Guatemala, and Palestine, the latter courtesy of Pal Craftaid, and, Zatoun Olive Oil.

The Mission Committee of First Presbyterian Church in downtown Charleston, WV, ran a global marketplace at Christmastime for years. But three years ago, it opened a permanent shop to express its commitment to a more equitable global economy, and, to establishing better ties with individual artisans whose products stock the shelves.

Now it is a fixture.

“Such stories to tell,” said Mary Kay, during a conversation with Pal Craftaid.

She has met the carvers in Bethlehem, whose nativities sell quickly each year during the holidays. The same men drafted the Child in the Hand of God sculpture that she watched an elementary-age girl spot, and, ask her mother if it was okay to take home. “She never looked at anything else,” says Mary Kay, although there were purses, dolls and scarves galore.

The nine fair trade organizations marketed at Hope Village are not all alike. Mary Kay prefers those – like Pal Craftaid – who re-invest profits into organizations abroad.

For instance, profits from Pal Craftaid sales are donated to schools, community organizations and humanitarian efforts in Palestine.

The city’s shoppers support First Church’s efforts fully.

A few years back – just as the then-global marketplace was to open for Advent sales – Charleston was hit by a monster snowstorm, cutting off power in 75 percent of the city.

Mary Kay and her pastor met at 4 a.m. on opening day when the heat was restored at one of their homes. It turned into a morning of coffee, conversation and prayer. “We decided that people in many parts of the world live like this all the time,” she said, so the shop opened despite the weather.

In three hours – on a wretched morning – the store was crowded with shoppers.

“I do a lot of crying in the shop,” Mary Kay said, touched by the conduit the shop has become for her life – and the lives of others – to connect with people across the globe. Most shoppers ask for stories about the artisans so a grandmother, uncle or sibling understands the significance of a gift.

High school students, too, come through the shop’s doors hoping to shop more justly.

Mary Kay is always happy to talk about how the artisans’ products are a way to do just that.

Hope Village re-opens this year in November, after a brief hiatus while Mary Kay recovered from a surgery. She’s hoping to get herself back to the Middle East yet again to stock up on stories and renew old acquaintances.

“It just feels this shop provides hope to so many around the world,” she said.