I'm the editor of Smart, a magazine for women in southcentral Pennsylvania. I said "I do" to my wonderful husband in 2002. We have two adorable children who have taught me much about life and love. With the birth of my second child, I bid farewell to my dreams of having a clean house, folded laundry and family dinners on weeknights.

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The birth of the International Gift Festival 50 years ago was linked to women reaching across barriers of language, culture and spiritual tradition to form unassailable bonds of sisterhood.

In 1961, the women of the Fairfield Mennonite Church Ladies Service Guild agreed to sponsor a sale of exquisite, handmade needlework. The proceeds from the sale went back to Ten Thousand Village’s needlework projects and were distributed to the impoverished women who made the tablecloths, place mats and dresser scarves.

Joyce Shutt and her mother, Ruth Musselman, visited Edna Ruth Byler at her home in Akron, Pennsylvania.

Over tea and Mrs. B’s cinnamon rolls, Edna Ruth confessed she did not know what to do with decorative enamel card boxes her husband had brought back from a mission trip to Jordan.

“Plain Mennonites are not interested in such fancy things,” she said.

Ruth Musselman took Mrs. B’s hand in hers and said “give us everything you can’t sell, and we’ll sell them for you in Fairfield.”

“After all,” Ruth added, “we’re worldly Mennonites.”

The first International Gift Festival in November 1961 raised $500 during the one-day sale.

These days, ladies groups are frowned upon by younger people.

“Little do they realize all we women did. None of their social groups could hold a candle to our hard work, sweat, determination and fortitude,” Musselman said.

“Sometimes, I yearn for days gone by when women stood together, not worrying about men’s and women’s roles. Yes, it felt good to know a sisterhood,” sighs Ruth Musselman.

The years have not diminished the need for Global Fair Trade initiatives, especially in underdeveloped countries ravaged by war, environmental deterioration and catastrophic weather occurrences.

The global Fair Trade Movement began more than 60 years ago with the founding of Ten Thousand Villages.

The International Gift and Rug Festival provides an opportunity to be a part of the solution to poverty and injustice and ensures that all people are treated with dignity and respect.

About the festival

The 50th International Gift and Rug Festival
If you’re looking for a different sort of gift for family and friends, come to this annual festival featuring fair trade handcrafted items, including rugs, jewelry, pottery, home decor, textiles, baskets and other accessories.

When: Nov. 9 through 13, weekdays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Where: Fairfield Mennonite Church, 201 W. Main St. in Fairfield

For details: Contact Lolly odea Polvinale at touch3@centurylink.net or 642-5234

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