Looking to get a head start on holiday shopping while supporting a charitable cause? One church’s two-day shopping experience is just that.
This Friday and Saturday, First Baptist Church of Gainesville will host a wide range of vendors of boutique apparel, jewelry, books, toys, beauty products, decorative items and baked delicacies at the return of its annual Emporium.
Sponsored by the church’s women’s ministry, Emporium is back in full force after two years of cancellation due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In its absence, the Emporium Bake Shoppe — made up of church members and local bakeries — baked and donated cookies, cakes, pies, and sweet breads to sell to raise funds.
“Since we had to pull the full show the last two years … our bakery team did agree to go ahead and do just the bakery part because we could space it out in this huge banquet hall,” said Amy Lawson, Emporium vendor chairwoman.
Now in its 15th year, the idea behind Emporium was to bring individuals from the church and the surrounding community in for a weekend of charitable shopping.
“When First Baptist built our new banquet hall, a small group of women in the church started to think about how we could use that new space to help people in the community. That's how the Emporium was born,” Lawson said.
Since then, the event has raised over $250,000 for local nonprofits through booth rentals, ticket sales and Bake Shoppe purchases, with the Bake Shoppe itself bringing in $23,000 over the last two years, according to Lawson.
Lawson noted that the only money the women's ministry keeps from the event is just enough to pay for tickets and advertising for the next year.
A different nonprofit is chosen as the event’s beneficiary each year, according to Lawson. A beneficiary selection committee oversees the application process, narrowing the pool to its top three choices. From there, the committee arranges face-to-face interviews and, if possible, site visits to choose a finalist.
This year's beneficiary is Angel House of Georgia, which gives women in Gainesville the long-term support they need to create a drug- and alcohol-free living environment.
“We just feel like God had kind of placed it in the hearts of the women — a small group of women in our church, too — to do something to help Angel House, so when they applied to be a beneficiary, they were certainly in our top three,” said Lawson. “We just felt like that was a very important organization that we could help put women on the road to recovery and restore them to their families eventually.”
Lawson said that the most important thing about the event is that every dollar that is spent at the show will go straight to Angel House to support women recovering from drug and alcohol addiction.
“I just don't want people to think it's just an arts and crafts show, because that really is a very small part of what we do,” Lawson said. “Beyond that, it's a great opportunity to support local businesses and mark some things off their Christmas shopping list. There's very little that you can't buy there.”
Emporium will run from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 23, and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday, Sept 24.
Tickets are $5 and can be purchased online.For vendor and ticket information, visit fbcgainesville.org/emporium-with-bake-shoppe.