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Brentwood church to hold first fair trade sale

| Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

St. Sylvester Parish in Brentwood will sponsor its first fair trade sale on Sept. 27 and 28, bringing the world to the South Hills.

Foods, home décor items, fashion and musical instruments made by artisans from third-world countries will be sold to support families in struggling communities far away.

Mimi Darragh, social minister at the parish and the event's organizer, said Diocese of Pittsburgh officials encouraged fair trade sales about three years ago because they fit with the Roman Catholic faith's teachings on life and human dignity.

Darragh said she has put together a few similar sales at another church. “This is not like a craft or vendor show. These items produce a living wage for people and create jobs,” she said.

Ten Thousand Villages, a fair trade retailer in Squirrel Hill, will supply the products that come from Asia, India, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East.

“I always ask for coffee, chocolate and olive oil, the best sellers,” Darragh said.

The olive oil comes from the West Bank, where Israeli and Palestinian farmers cooperate in the production. Olive wood Christmas ornaments will come from Bethlehem.

“The coffee may be a little more expensive than Maxwell House,” she said, but farmers picked the beans in Guatemala.

There are stories behind much of the artwork to be sold.

Helene Paharik, associate general secretary of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, remembers seeing five Palestinian women roaming Bethlehem streets, hunting for discarded glass bottles. Later, they cut the multicolored glass and created stained glass angel ornaments.

“With the money they made, they were able to support 20 kids,” she said. She purchased one ornament and thinks of the women and children often.

“The angel meant so much to me,” Paharik said. “It was not just a transaction, but an intimate connection with the artist.”

Through the fair trade system supported by Catholic Relief Services, crafts are sent to places where they might be sold.

“There is no local market” in many areas where the items are made,” she said. “Everyone around them is poor.”

No one is exploited in the system, Paharik said. Items are purchased outright from crafters, supporting each village.

“It's the greatest incentive of helping people help themselves,” she said.

Dona S. Dreeland is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5803 or

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