Patrick Davies photo Carmen Schwarz’s baking table was filled to the brim at the Made in the Cariboo Artisan Craft and Artisan Fair held at the Tourism Discovery Centre in November.

Giving at the heart of Carmen’s Earlybird Christmas Craft Fair

When Carmen’s Earlybird Christmas Craft Fair is underway at the Elks Hall the first weekend in November each year, organizer Carmen Schwarz is always making a list and checking it twice.

That’s because one of the stipulations for the vendors to be in the fair is that they donate food or a small amount of cash toward food bank items for Pregnancy Outreach Society.

“I have a list and I hound people relentlessly,” Schwarz said with a chuckle. “By the beginning of the second day if they haven’t brought me a few non-perishable food items then I go around ask if they want to make a small cash donation.”

Schwarz has co-ordinated the fair for 18 years and gathered food bank donations every year, with the last 15 years for Pregnancy Outreach.

Read more: Pregnancy Outreach supports and connects mothers

Several years ago she chose Pregnancy Outreach because she learned, from a friend who worked there, that the program often feeds moms and children and gives them food to take home if they are in need.

“When I drove up there the first time, a bunch of people came out and they couldn’t thank us enough,” Schwarz said. “And they always send a thank you letter for myself and the vendors. I choose to do this instead of having a draw.”

At this year’s craft fair she was able to put together six good-sized boxes, she added.

Barb Jones, the manager of Pregnancy Outreach, said they really appreciate and are thankful of the support from the craft fair vendors and the Elks Hall.

“They have committed to supporting us for years,” Jones said. “We have a food bank and a diaper bank for our families that is based strictly on donations so it really helps.”

When asked if the diaper bank is stocked, Jones said not often in the larger sizes because most people are thinking about newborns when they donate.

Schwarz said she ended up starting her own craft fair because she loves to bake.

Her first foray into entering a fair at the Elks Hall resulted in all her baking disappearing within about 45 minutes.

“I went home and baked the rest of the day so I’d have something to sell the next day,” she recalled.

When she runs her craft fair, however, she doesn’t bake because she is too busy running the fair.

Instead, she sells her baking at the Made in the Cariboo Artisan and Craft Fair at the Tourism Discovery Centre.

Read more: Made in the Cariboo Craft and Artisan Fair off to a busy start

Her mom Roland Perron, who is legally blind, helps her bake for five full days that stretch from 9 a.m. until 10 or 11 at night.

They do the pies ahead of time, she added.

“This year my granddaughter, Rylee Dieck, had her own table at the TDC and was selling stuff. We are grooming her as well,” Schwarz said.

Schwarz grew up in Lac La Hache, having moved there when she was seven years old because her parents purchased Fir Crest Resort.

She has worked at Canada Safeway for 38 years, starting out in 100 Mile House, spending six years in Kelowna and then returning to Williams Lake six years ago.

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