The Alternative Gifts Fair at First United Methodist Church of Denton is making its in-person return this weekend, giving a holiday boost to nonprofits and offering community members a unique shopping opportunity.

The fair is a way for nonprofits of all kinds to increase their visibility ahead of the holiday season. It started out small over 30 years ago, but has ballooned to the three-day event it is now, this year with nearly 30 vendors set up at the church.

Karen Anderson-Lain, chair of the fair committee, said the fair was no exception to the pandemic’s impact on local events. While it typically raises in the ballpark of $80,000, last year’s fair was forced online, with the virtual version raising about a third of that total. She said she’s hoping this year’s, which kicked off Friday and runs through Sunday, can attract hundreds of shoppers and reach over $60,000.

“We know it’s going to be a restart where we have to revitalize awareness of the event,” Anderson-Lain said. “The organizations really need the help right now.”

The several nonprofits represented this weekend include local options like the Denton Quilt Guild and Our Daily Bread, in addition to several from across the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The committee also selects one organization each year to be the recipient of funds from its community artisan and silent auction section, choosing the Denton Community Food Center this time around.

Anderson-Lain said the committee chooses the vendors through applications, although it also reaches out directly in some cases. Goods up for purchase over the weekend include anything from baked goods to custom-made jewelry and baskets.

Brodie Bruner, a board member for Dallas-based Paper for Water, said the water access nonprofit does best at hands-on events like the gifts fair, where it can show its origami ornaments up close.

“It’s visibility for the cause and what we’re doing about it,” Bruner said. “When people can actually touch the ornament and hold it in their hand, they’re much more likely to purchase something.”

For church members and the community, the fair lives up to its name, providing some unique handmade products. Shopper Analisa Warren, a Lubbock resident in town to visit her churchgoing family, said she’s been to the fair once before and finds it a good opportunity to give back — and do some holiday shopping.

“It’s a different way to give back than just getting a letter in the mail asking for money,” Warren said. “You get to hear their stories and it’s unique stuff. They have something for everyone.”

The biggest returns will go to the Denton Community Food Center, as the fair’s community section typically brings in around $10,000 for the chosen organization. Food center volunteer Liz Holland said a lot of the money will go toward holiday meals, with Thanksgiving and Christmas on the horizon.

“Especially at this time of the year, all this extra money is going to help,” Holland said. “And with so many people out of work right now, it really makes a difference.”

The fair continues through Sunday, starting at 9 a.m. and wrapping up at 1 p.m.

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