Plan Now for Your Best Christmas Ever—With Gifts That Make a Difference

Jenn Knepper

Every year Les and I go to the Gifts That Give Hope Alternative Gift Fair. We eat great food. Browse the information on nonprofits and choose meaningful gift donations for various family members and friends. Explore the unique fair trade gifts, clothing and chocolates offered. Maybe listen to a musical group. It’s an amazing event.

I’ve asked Jennifer Knepper, who is part of the all-volunteer team that put on this annual event, to talk about how it all started. She is an RN at Hershey Medical Center where she first read about the gift fair in 2007.

I honestly dreaded the holidays and approached the month of December with angst and trepidation. I loathe stuff; the idea of more stuff accumulating at my house, or the idea that I had to buy stuff for people to somehow relay the notion that I love them; it just didn’t compute in my brain. How was this supposed to be a reflection of my faith and celebration of the birth of Christ? There was a gaping chasm of disconnect between how I observed the descent of extreme commercialism and the quiet peaceful birth of Jesus and the humble pragmatic gifts that he received.

Perhaps I didn’t even realize the degree to which I felt this disconnect until one night at work in 2007. At about 3 am, I picked up a copy of the Patriot News and read about a Women’s Giving Circle in the Harrisburg area who were putting on an alternative gift fair. The headline grabbed my attention: “Your dad doesn’t need another tie and your grandma doesn’t need another sweater.” I was all ears. Honestly my mom had been saying the same things for years herself: “Don’t buy me more stuff to sit around the house, Jenn . . . but rather let’s do stuff together—lunch, plays, trips together, etc.—but NO MORE STUFF. The fair gave people the opportunity to buy specific “gifts” as donations to nonprofits and provided a card describing the donation to put under the Christmas tree.

That giving circle I read about would go on to become the umbrella organization “Gifts that Give Hope,” serving as a conduit for anyone across the US (and beyond—we’ve had gift fairs in British Columbia) to have the resources and tools to host an event in their hometown.

In 2008 we started our own alternative fair here in Lancaster. One can hardly be surprised by the resounding enthusiasm that the gift fair has been met with here in Lancaster, when you consider we are the community known for welcoming the highest number of refugees in the WORLD as reported by the BBC. And recent news tells us that Lancaster has one of the highest percentages of B Corps/social enterprise businesses, so we can see that there is a track record for philanthropy, generosity and at the root of it, a desire to see people’s lives change for the better. Rather than giving people fish, here in Lancaster County, we give people the tools and access to resources to build on their God-given strengths and innate abilities.

The gift fair is now in its 11th year, and I’d like to invite you to come out to experience a truly delightful alternative to the rampant consumerism that drives me absolutely crazy. The day is filled with community and connection and it is beautiful to witness. In ONE space you have access to 30 nonprofit organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, Heifer, HOPE International, Nurse Family Partnership, and Music for Everyone; social enterprise and fair trade organizations where you can buy fairly made gifts; and amazing food vendors that hail from around the world—Nepali Spice Company, Refugee Makers Project, Ghana Initiative, Bead for Life, Stroopies, Upohar, Commons Company—and SO much more. You’ll want to invite your friends for a tasty meal and make a date of it.

Learn more at And follow us on Facebook and Instagram to see photos and read stories of the products and gift options changing lives here and across the world.

We’d love to see you out on December 8, 2018!!

Gifts that Give Hope: Lancaster’s Alternative Gift Fair

11th annual event on December 8, 2018
at the Farm & Home Center
1383 Arcadia Road
conveniently accessible from Rtes 30 and 283


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