by LEE ANN SANDWEISS
In 2009, when Global Gifts opened its doors on the downtown Square at 122 N. Walnut, a segment of the Bloomington community probably wasn’t familiar with the concept of fair trade. If so, that might have changed because of this resilient nonprofit shop.
“Fair trade is about social and economic justice,” explains Dave Debikey, manager of Global Gifts since its beginning. “Our primary purpose is to provide opportunities for marginalized communities around the world, making sure they are getting fair prices and living wages for their goods, so that they have money to send their children to school and access to medical care. We offer an alternate model to standard trade. We give our customers fair prices and treat our producers as partners. We alleviate poverty through good relationships rather than charity.”
Debikey says that the COVID-19 pandemic required Global Gifts to adjust during the height of lockdown and recalibrate for the 2021 holiday season.
“Last spring, we scrambled to get more merchandise online, and now our website features most of what we carry in the store,” he notes. “We also offer a curbside pickup option for web orders. There have been some product shortages from countries that have been hit very hard by the pandemic, but we’ve been placing orders for the fall-to-winter season, especially items like winter knits, nativities, and ornaments, which we anticipate having in stock by early October. We continue to offer a vast selection of jewelry, clothing and accessories, housewares, and children’s items.”
Because Global Gifts is a retail nonprofit with just a handful of paid staff, it has always relied on a loyal volunteer force to perform routine tasks at the store. Melissa Adkins, volunteer coordinator and assistant manager, shares that COVID-19 brought the store’s volunteer numbers down, and it is welcoming enthusiastic newcomers.
“It’s been an unusual year and a half,” Adkins admits. “Students come and go, but we had a strong core group of community volunteers. During the lockdown, some longtime volunteers stepped down, so we are in a rebuilding phase. A lot of people who shop with us end up volunteering. Our goal is to have a volunteer force of 35–40 before the holidays. It’s a bit like rebuilding from scratch, but the growing pains are exciting.”
For more information, visit globalgiftsft.com.