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Holiday craft fair comes to Palo Alto

Annual fair at First Presbyterian Church combines gift buys with support for worthy causes

When all of the wrapping paper lies spent on the living room floor and the lure of glittering lights and 25-percent-off sales have passed, how good will people really feel?

The Holiday Peace and Social Justice Craft and Info Fair aims to create a more satisfying and beneficial approach to gift giving that just might be a little different from Christmases past, organizers said.

Now in its fifth year, the holiday fair at First Presbyterian Church of Palo Alto offers a chance to live up to the "Peace on Earth and Good Will to All Men" salutation by pairing fair-trade and ecologically friendly gifts with volunteer opportunities from 25 vendors. The event is co-sponsored by the church and the Peninsula Peace and Justice Center.

Shoppers can purchase Palestinian-grown olive oil and support rebuilding bombed Palestinian homes; a hand-made sweater purchase could help a women's cooperative in Peru. A plastic stacking set made from recycled plastic from Green Toys Inc. (a local company based in Milpitas) helps reduce landfill waste.

"It started from an idea of an alternative Christmas fair to use purchasing power to do good in the world," said Derrick Kikuchi, co-owner of Reach and Teach, who is organizing the event for First Presbyterian.

The fair isn't just a place to find cool gifts. There are also the birds. Mikaboo Bird Rescue rescues exotic birds that have been abandoned and will display some of their foster pets. The birds are always a high point at the fair, Kikuchi said.

"It isn't just a craft fair. You get to learn about organizations looking for volunteers to help with what they are doing. It's a chance to see the holiday season as more than a consumer event. People are learning about the ways they are giving," he said.

Kikuchi said the fair has been growing more popular each year, perhaps because it fits in with the country's current mindset of frugality and awareness.

"Jack Benny would be fashionable today. Not just a penny pincher, but green and socially conscious today," he said.

The fair takes place Sunday (Dec. 11) from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and is cosponsored by the Peninsula Peace and Justice Center and First Presbyterian Church of Palo Alto, 1140 Cowper St., Palo Alto.

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