Niagara Gazette

Local News

November 29, 2012

Church's saving grace

Niagara Gazette — In the old days, when the First Unitarian Universalist Church held its annual holiday bazaar, everyone would come for the handmade aprons, homemade baked goods and interesting resale offerings and antiques.

More than 70 years ago, the popular annual events helped the church get out of debt, according to church spokesman Peter Diachun. "It's my understanding that back in the 40s the church was faced with a similar survival situation. The bazaar became the biggest annual fundraiser for the church.

"It was a huge deal," Diachun said of the bazaars. "They spent all year getting ready for it and people from all over the city would come to do their Christmas shopping."

From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, leaders and congregants of the church, at 639 Main St., hope to recreate what worked so successfully in the past - a day-long event featuring everything that once made the traditional bazaars so popular. A successful event will mean stability for the 90-year-old church, which goes deeper into debt each year, officials said. 

"We've been operating at a substantial defecit for the last five or six years," said Diachun. "If we don't find an outside source of funding, we're going to loose our minister and maybe have to fold up."

Bazaar coordinator Marie Spear Howard has her work cut out for her and is taking her cues from successful past bazaars, offering handmade goods and interesting sale items. She is also adding what works really well at contemporary fundraising events — basket auctions.

The work of artisans Reinhild Vadla, a weaver, and Judith Bongiovanni, a lacemaker, will be for sale at the event.

Bongiovanni, of Lewiston, an 18-year member of the church, will be demonstrating her tatting (lacemaking) skills and selling lace snowflakes and holiday decorations. 

"Tatting is a form of lacemaking," she explained as she demonstrated her skill during an interview in the church's basement on Wednesday. "It requires a certain dexterity. It's hard to learn but once you learn, you're home free."

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