An Alternative Guest


One of the people I’ve gotten to know who is committed to making a difference here in Lancaster County and around the world is Jennifer Knepper. She is a staff nurse in the medical ICU at Hershey Medical Center, an adjunct clinical instructor for Lancaster General College, and a volunteer RN at Water Street Health Services. I’ve asked her to do a guest blog on an event that’s dear to her heart.

During a work shift at Hershey in 2007, I had some downtime at about 2 a.m. and decided to pick up the Patriot News. My eyes immediately went to the article that asked if your grandma really needed another sweater for Christmas or if your dad needed another tie. And I said “NO!”

My parents had actually been telling me for years not to get them anything for the holidays because they had enough “stuff,” so I began giving them gifts to honor them based on the impact that they’d had in my life. For example:

  • I gave the gift of education for a child in Africa through World Vision in their name. I choose this for my parents because my education was always something that they wholeheartedly supported and encouraged. I have come to realize how the gender disparity that exists throughout the world would not likely have afforded me an education had I grown up elsewhere.
  • One year, in honor of my sister, I gave to a cause she feels very passionate about—fighting human trafficking. I had heard the president of International Justice Mission speak at my church about the atrocities of modern day slavery, human trafficking and the like and decided to give the gift of aftercare to a young girl who had been rescued from a brothel for forced prostitution.

As I read the article, I discovered that a group of women in Harrisburg were hosting an alternative gift fair called Gifts That Give Hope. The best way to describe an alternative gift fair is to essentially think of a live version of a gift catalog that you may have seen or received around the holidays to further the work of various nonprofit organizations and to promote meaningful gift giving.

I immediately contacted and subsequently met with them in December of 2007 to brainstorm. In January of 2008, I gathered a small group of vibrant, committed volunteers to put this concept in motion for Lancaster. We hosted our first annual gift fair in November of 2008 and sold over $30,000 worth of gifts that benefited 30+ nonprofit organizations.

We’re now planning for our 3rd annual eventand are excited to see how things have grown. We’ve worked to make this event unique to Lancaster with a celebratory and community emphasis. We will be featuring local flavors of well-loved cafes and restaurants unique to Lancaster County: Café Chocolate, Cocina Mexicana, Rachel’s Creperie, Spyro Gyro, Square One Coffee, Rafiki Café and Wendy Jo’s Homemade. Children’s activities are available from the following organizations: The Lancaster Science Factory, Heads Up Lancaster, Your Language Connection, Music for Everyone, and Kids and Cultures.


In addition to the alternative gifts, holiday shoppers can purchase fair trade gift items for loved ones, teachers, coworkers, and the like. Gift items range from “Bead for Life” jewelry made from magazines by women in Uganda, to “Delicious Peace” coffee (organic & fair trade) grown by Christian, Jewish, and Muslim farmers in a co-op in Uganda, and items from “Made by Survivors,” where every piece is handmade by a woman who has been removed from human trafficking and is now involved in respectable and dignified working conditions.

This year’s event will take place on Saturday, November 20, from 10 a.m.–4 p.m., at the Farm and Home Center (Penn State Cooperative Extension building), 1383 Arcadia Road, Lancaster. We are still looking for volunteers to help with this year’s event. Could you be one of them?

To learn more, check out our website or our blog. “Friend” us on Facebook. Contact us with any questions or to volunteer.

Hope to see you there.




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