LAST CHRISTMAS - Ten Thousand Villages Store Manager Tina Bale stands in the downtown story, which will be closing in 2018. Mark Weber/Red Deer Express

Last Christmas for Ten Thousand Villages in Red Deer

The fair trade organization will be closing its doors in the New Year

Ten Thousand Villages Society Red Deer has announced this will be their last Christmas.

During the past 10 years, sales have been over $2.5 million – sales that represent hope to many makers in the developing world, noted a press release.

“However, despite great efforts and contributions by volunteers and financial backers we have been unable to achieve the level of sales that would support the continued operation of the store in Red Deer.”

Ten Thousand Villages is a well-established fair-trade organization that sells products from over 120 artisan groups in 35 developing countries.

The organization provides these countries an important market sustaining income through fair trade.

This income pays for food, education, healthcare and housing. From coffee and chocolate to home décor and personal accessories, all products in the store are handmade making them truly unique.

“It’s been a lot of hard work, and a tremendous struggle for these 10 years,” noted Victor Doerksen, president of the board in his message to the volunteers. The decision to close up shop was made this past October at the annual general meeting.

“Charity would have been easier – it would have been simpler and quicker to just write a cheque and donate the money. But I still believe that, while charity is a good short-term solution, our model of helping the artisans gain an income for their families by providing a market for something they have worked to produce is still the best long-term solution.”

In the meantime, Doerksen said he was thankful for the tremendous support the store has been shown over the years.

“From patient investors who will not be getting all their money back; to our various managers over the years who have worked tirelessly for pay that is not the greatest; to our board members who give up their evenings to provide direction and to all our volunteers who selflessly give their time and are our best customers too.

“Thank-you to all. You have given hope to many people for 10 years.”

For Tina Bale, store manager, it certainly marks a season of change. She’s been managing for four years, and was a volunteer at the City store prior to that.

In the meantime, there is all kinds of great inventory to explore – ideal items for Christmas gifts. And there are mark-downs that customers can take advantage of as well, she added. These include new mark-downs every day until Christmas.

“We just wanted to do Christmas as usual,” she said of the plan in place following the decision to close.

Looking back, she has many wonderful memories to treasure. “I think I’m the only manager here that started as a volunteer,” she said. “I didn’t even know what ‘fair trade’ was.

“I didn’t know at first there was a way to purchase things consciously and care for people,” she said. “Now, my family knows if something has the ‘fair trade symbol on it, that puts a smile on my face!”

Working with the many volunteers who help run the day-to-day operations of the store has also been a joy, she said.

“These people who come in and give of their time because they believe in it – as a volunteer I never really thought of it. But being on the other side – making sure the shifts are filled and that the customers are cared for, and that things are done around the store – these volunteers come in and do all of that because they believe in what they are doing.

“We all feel very blessed to have served in this community for the past 10 years.”

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