“Changing the world one purchase at a time” is the tagline for the Heart & Hands Emporium, one of the biggest and most exciting events in the life of the First Baptist Women’s Ministry. Typically held the last Friday and Saturday in September, the now-annual shopping extravaganza holds a special place in the hearts of the women at First Baptist. When the women’s committee began the event, their initial aim was to find a way to raise money that would allow the women of the church to minister to people outside its doors. They decided that the best way to do that would be to host an event that would draw in people from the church and beyond for a weekend of shopping for a cause. In the first seven years of the show, the women of the church have been able to raise and donate over $100,000 to very deserving organizations in our community and beyond. The show generates funds through booth rentals as well as ticket and bakery sales. Vendors pay from $150 to $200 for their space but get to keep all their profits.
Each year in the early spring, the Emporium Discretionary Committee carefully considers the beneficiary applications that have been submitted for that year and narrows them to three organizations they feel would be the best choices to receive the Emporium funds. After an in-depth interview and on-site visit to all three, the committee makes their final decision. Since one of their original goals was particularly to help women and children, the list of past beneficiaries has included Rahab’s Rope, The North House, My Sister’s Place, The Guest House, Gateway Domestic Violence Center, and Action Ministries Gainesville. The 2014 beneficiary, The Partnership for Gynecological Cancer Support, works with local doctors and nurses to identify individual needs of patients undergoing treatment for gynecological cancers. The organization then provides funds to help pay for gas, groceries and utility bills. The gifts are given anonymously.
So... what kind of merchandise do the eager shoppers begin lining up to buy before the doors even open on Friday morning? It might be easier to make a list of what you can’t find at Emporium. Are you growing weary of your wardrobe? You can pick up a cute jacket, a new belt, or a great pair of boots or sandals. Need a birthday gift for your best friend? You’ll find a bigger variety of scarves, handbags, and unique jewelry items than you would at any shopping mall. Can’t resist buying something for your grandchildren everywhere you go? How about an appliqued romper, an educational toy, or a new storybook? Would you like a new look for your living room? The Emporium features everything from European antiques and collectibles to pottery made in Peckerwood, Georgia. Need a dessert for your book club but don’t have time to make anything? Stop by the bakery for a beautiful layer cake or a pan of fudge brownies.
How can you get involved in such a wonderful event? Volunteer your time the weekend of the event to sell tickets, hand out shopping bags, or give vendors a restroom break. If you won’t be in town the weekend of Emporium, you can bake something and donate it before you leave town or you could work on the volunteer recruitment committee signing up other people to help. What else can you do to make the show a success? Well, the tagline says it all. “Changing the world one purchase at a time.” Who could think of a better excuse for shopping!