BROOKFIELD—Parishes throughout the diocese have found creative and socially distant safe ways to continue fundraising efforts during the coronavirus pandemic.
The St. Marguerite Parish Annual Fall Festival, a tradition for the past three decades, is virtual for the first time this year.
“It started as a small craft fair by ladies at the parish and it has kept growing and growing,” said Mary Ellen Tiernan, Faith Formation director. “There were 45 vendors last year and we ran out of space.”
This year, space was not a problem since vendors agreed to participate virtually.
“It’s not a big fundraiser for us but we wanted to keep the connection with our parish members,” Tiernan said. “We want them to know, “We are here and we want you to stay involved.’”
Over the past 30 years, the Fall Festival has become quite an event for the community and she and others didn’t want to skip a year because of the pandemic.
Tiernan said she sent a letter to vendors who participated for the past two years and asked if they would be amenable to trying something different and showcasing their wares virtually.
Parish families lent a helping hand by making signs for front lawns to alert people to the virtual fair.
Vendors donated $30 to participate and sent a description of what they would like on the flyer and Tiernan went to work creating the flyers to post online.
The flyers, posted on the parish website and social media, contain a hyperlink for shoppers to see what vendors have to offer and potentially purchase items.
The virtual Fall Festival Vendor Fair has turned out to be a bit of a blessing in disguise. “We are able to get information out to hundreds of people,” said Tiernan, adding that people beyond the immediate community can participate.
Some vendors automatically ship to buyers, others with large items that may be too costly to ship, agree to send the items to the school where they may be picked up.
“The buyers come to the parking lot to an assigned spot and a runner goes to deliver the item to the buyer,” Tiernan said. “Everything is socially distant.”
The virtual fair also has another benefit. The one-day SAVERS drive, held in conjunction with the fair, could now be expanded.
“Since we are not meeting on the premises (due to coronavirus concerns), we have a lot of space,” Tiernan said. “Instead of doing a one-day drive we set aside a month.”
Bags of clothing can be dropped off at the Candlewood Lake Road parish and parish families sort the items into categories. Tiernan said parishioners with large vehicles volunteer to drive back and forth to bring the hundreds of bags and dozens of boxes of items to SAVERS on Federal Road. SAVERS support the Big Brothers, Big Sisters organization.
“There’s no way I could have done it this way, if we had the fair,” Tiernan said, adding that the children of the parish are an integral part of the process. Many of the children are Confirmation candidates and incorporating Corporal Works of Mercy into their lives is essential.
“It’s an important message for kids to see parents involved, too.”
Note: The St. Marguerite Parish Annual Fall Festival concludes on Friday (Nov. 6).