As Nan Collett removed the items one by one from the stack of cardboard boxes, each one seemed to tell a story — and, in many cases, the story was about making a lot with a little.
The chair of Harbor Christian Church's outreach ministry team on Friday began the process of setting up the Fair Trade Christmas Shopping bazaar, which offers items made by artisans in the developing world.
A group of small elephant and giraffe sculptures, on closer inspection, proved to have been assembled from cut-up strips of soda cans. Baskets from Bangladesh showed patterns from saris that the creators had recycled for weaving.
When Collett opened a tiny box and emptied its contents — a set of nativity scene statuettes — into her hand, she looked bemusedly at the attached tag, which stated that they were made of "Calderon bread." To an unsuspecting touch, the figurines could easily have passed for plastic or ceramic.
"You ladies know what Calderon is?" Collett asked the other church staffers in the office. No one present knew, but a Google search later turned up the answer: Calderon is the rural parish in Ecuador where the sculptures were assembled out of bread dough.
From Calderon to regions of Uganda and the Philippines, the places of origin of the bazaar's goods may be unknown to many people who stop by the church at 2401 Irvine Ave., Newport Beach. For the second straight year, Collett and her team will offer a socially minded alternative to those who want to bypass the corporate side of the holidays.
Ten Thousand Villages, a Pennsylvania-based nonprofit, provided most of the goods. The organization, which has a store in Pasadena, buys products from Third World artisans and resells them to earn back the cost.
"By the time it's on a boat heading for harbor, the artisan has already been paid in full," said Sam Bills, the manager of the Pasadena location.
A Thread of Hope, a fair-trade organization that benefits Guatemalan workers, and Fair-Trade-Products.com also contributed goods to Harbor Christian Church's bazaar. Friday morning, the church's office boasted a rich array of soap, coffee, chocolate, clothing and more.
Pastor Wesley Knight, who put on similar events while serving as a pastor in Missouri, said this year's sale in Newport Beach may be twice as lavish as last year's. The church makes no money off the sales, with all proceeds going to the fair-trade organizations.
"We don't make a dime off of it," Knight said. "We wouldn't want to."
If You Go
What: Fair Trade Christmas Shopping
Where: Harbor Christian Church, 2401 Irvine Ave., Newport Beach
When: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday
Cost: Free to enter; cost of goods varies
Information: (949) 645-5781 or harborchristianchurch.com