Faith and Fair Trade Inspirations

Faith & Fair Trade Inspirations Read on to find what others do to inspire their congregation and communities around issues of faith and Fair Trade!

Holiday Fair Trade at First UU Church

Barbara Taylor of First UU Church in Columbus, Ohio, shares the exciting ways her church sells during the holidays. Many thanks to this very active, creative congregation for making a big change in the lives of small-farmers and their community!

The Economic Globalization committee at the First UU Church of Columbus, Ohio, began in the early 2000s to look at issues of improving conditions for small farmers/producers in the third world. Michael Greenman, Anne Burnham, and Kathleen Boston led this effort. They decided to seek out a great supplier to put our Fair Trade vision into action. After careful research, they chose Equal Exchange. Kathleen ran the sales for several years.

Fast forward to last year, and Elaine Fujimura and Danya Furda, who had been running the sales for several years, were looking for a replacement. In the meantime, one day at church I tasted an Equal Exchange Very Dark Chocolate bar for the first time, and a lasting love affair began between me and Equal Exchange chocolate!

I volunteered to run the sales this past year (2011-12) and I'm happily doing so still! I am supported by our active Justice Action Ministry (JAM) group, as well as about a dozen volunteers who joyfully help out. We set up the Fair Trade table every third Sunday in Fellowship Hall, which is our "gathering place" after services for meet-and-greet, coffee hour, and tables for various groups (Caring Committee, BUUkstore, etc.).

Fair-Tradin' Holidays

Last December (2011), we had an extra sale to help people stock up for the holiday season! Doing two sales in December really helped our sales numbers. Our total sales in December were fantastic – around $1,675! This was about a thousand dollars more than we sold the previous December. The difference was the renewed energy and focus on really enjoying the products and incorporating them more into our church's life.

I bought many Equal Exchange products as gifts for my holiday gift-giving, including coffee, chocolate bars, hot chocolate, and olive oil. Considering our sales numbers, many of our parishioners did the same! In addition, the Indian wrapping paper was a big hit for the holidays.

Equal Exchange's wonderful new organic Palestinian olive oil added an extra dimension to our holiday season. Olive oil is a symbol of peace as well as being used extensively in cooking these days. Of course, baking chocolate was another popular item. I even had a former member email me and request some, to be picked up by a friend to bring to her in another city where she now lives!

Our parishioners value the fact that many Equal Exchange products are produced organically. Most of our members are very environmentally aware, so this aspect of the products they purchase is very important to them. Both the health benefits of organic products as well as the sustainability benefits to our earth are deciding factors.

A Yule Ball Like No Other

Lynne Bieber is in charge of the Columbus chapter of the Harry Potter Alliance, the "Enlightened Hippogriffs." This past holiday season, she teamed with the Fair Trade group at our church to introduce the children to the subject of the oppression of farmers in the third-world, and how we can "raise all boats" by supporting fair trade.

As Lynne recounts: "For First UU's Justice Sunday in November, we showed all the elementary-aged kids a video about the chocolate industry, Jolinda Stephens [the RE director] guided them in a chocolate meditation (sampling Equal Exchange chocolates!) and we made flyers and posters about fair trade and our Yule Ball that the kids decorated."

At the Yule Ball on December 10, festivities included children dressing up like Harry Potter characters, eating chocolate frogs, drinking "butterbeer," and contra dancing with a live band and caller. The Yule Ball was a fun activity for the children, but it also brought in the kids' parents that might not know about Fair Trade otherwise. The contra dancing made it an event that was truly enjoyable for all ages!

At the Yule Ball, the children made a "Muggle Howler" video (see here) in which they demanded that Warner Brothers start using Fair Trade chocolate not slave-produced chocolate "in Harry's name."

Darjeeling, Darling?

Also in December, I created a tri-fold promoting Equal Exchange Darjeeling Tea, because it is my favorite of their teas, and also as an attempt to win a free trip to India! I did not win the trip, but I sure had a lot of fun trying!

I learned a lot about how tea is grown and produced. For one thing, I did not know that all Darjeeling tea is grown in one specific area of northeast India! Also, many tea plantations use virtual slave labor, unlike the small growers and family farms that supply Equal Exchange!

Below is a picture of one of our volunteers, Barbara Avery, and me, promoting Darjeeling Tea!

Coffee Connections

Denni Hale keeps the coffee flowing during coffee hour every Sunday, using fairly traded, organic Equal Exchange coffee, tea, and hot cocoa. I order whatever she needs, and she receives it at wholesale cost. Costs are supported by the church and direct donations at the coffee servers' table.

Inspired by the activities at St. Monica-St. George Parish Newman Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, I am hoping we can soon expand our use of Equal Exchange products to all First UU events!

Onward!

How could we improve? Sometime in the next year, I would like to see our Adult Enrichment Program offer a seminar on Fair Trade to help educate and discuss these issues of fair trade, sustainability, and justice which are so important to our shrinking world.

In the meantime, we'll be there every third Sunday (and an extra Sunday in December!), embracing our justice mission by supporting the farmers and producers who are trying to build better lives for themselves and their children all over the world!
 

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Ways to Fair Trade Your Holiday

Gift Fair How-To's: See Alternative Gift Fair How-To's for organizing ideas.

Table Display
Set up a beautiful Fair Trade display for selling. Jane Ganter of the U.U. Church in Eugene shares how they set up displays - see picture of the table and congregant Lyn selling, to the right.

Pre-Ordered Holiday Gift Baskets: Use this sample gift basket order form to make custom pre-order baskets, courtesy of Jennifer Tratnyek and Kay Mackie of Monona United Methodist Church in Monona, Wisconsin.

Linda Elliott, of First Presbyterian in Charleston, West Virginia, describes how she makes pre-made gift baskets:

People place their orders between Thanksgiving and the second week of December and choose the items that they want to put in a basket. They are charged per item. People found out about this through word of mouth and then the Charleston Gazette featured an article about the project which attracted more sales.

Get the Word Out

Reverend Megan Severns, pastor of First Christian Church in Paris, Tennessee, shares this creative and visible way her church shared Fair Trade:

Our Christian Women's Fellowship decided that our Christmas tree downtown should be Fair Trade themed. So they decorated it with the theme of "coffee and justice."

We also gave away cups of coffee at Christmas events downtown. So people are starting to ask, "What is this delicious coffee all about anyways?"

 
 

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Linda Elliott, First Presbyterian Church of Charleston, WV - Winner of Equal Exchange Tea Contest

Read full article in The Charleston Gazette

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"Res-A-Wreck" Ministry and Christ The King Lutheran Church

By Todd Wulf of Christ The King Lutheran Church in Combined Locks, WI

The "Small Group" ministry that our coffee, chocolate and hot cocoa sales support is our Res-A-Wreck Automotive Ministry. It is a group of guys that donate their time to repair cars for people who cannot afford those repairs. We also take in donated cars and put them in running condition (if they are not) and give them to people who are truly in need of a vehicle. I do occasional "T-Times" in front of the congregation to remind them that their purchases of Equal Exchange products actually go to help small farmers as well as others locally, who would not have a vehicle they could depend on if not for the efforts of the Res-A-Wreck crew.

To date, Res-A-Wreck has placed over 45 vehicles with people in need, and has repaired hundreds more in the 8 years since its beginning. Loren Scheutte (Shooty) and his wife Julie are the real motivating force behind Res-A-Wreck. Their commitment, and it is a big one, has been unwavering. They started in their garage and volunteers continue to meet there. Julie fixes food for the volunteers and they work 8-10 hours one Saturday per month. Through word of mouth, and a little divine intervention, many others have been inspired to step forward to help in any way that they can. This includes a commercial garage owner who opens up his shop(and lifts) to the group, making the big jobs a little more manageable.

We have other small group ministries, such as our beloved "Knit Wits" quilting group that makes quilts for patients who are undergoing chemo therapy treatments. We have a travelling Clown Ministry, that delivers wonderful silent, biblically based messages during services at our church as well as at other local congregations. Our youth group is very active and has a number of fund raising programs going to support mission trips and other activities, and they could easily be the beneficiary of an Equal Exchange program, too.

I have been in churches where Equal Exchange coffee sales are done at wholesale only, which certainly helps the small farmers. However, those farmers are spread across the globe and we have local needs that we can address with Equal Exchange product sales. Members of our congregation know who is helping out at Res-A-Wreck and they know that the cars that are placed are placed locally. Equal Exchange products are reasonably priced which allows us the opportunity to mark them up to support our ministry, while at the same time saving the coffee drinker money compared to prices they pay for "Fair Trade" and organic coffees in the stores. This is a great program.

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Haunted Happenings with Fair Trade Cocoa

The cocoa booth at Haunted Happenings went very well this year! We served over 7,000 cups to the Halloween crowds over the last three weekends in October.

The serving table looked awesome, with several open brochures opened covering the table surface nicely, giving folks something to look at as they waited to be served (it helps the brochures are so attractive to the eye!). There were also several stacks of brochures for people to take as they went. It was great to use those as a springboard to engage people in conversations about Fair Trade and Equal Exchange in particular. I found myself saying "we love these guys" an awful lot. :) I remember one woman from Columbia that really enjoyed learning about how the fair trade process helps farmers in the growing countries.

We were also stoked to use the biodegradable Equal Exchange cups for the 1st time this year (they are so snazzy-looking!). It was great to be able to say, "And this year in biodegradable cups!"

Small church, big change!

-Paul Drake, The Gathering Church, Salem, MA
 

 

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Lois Nelson

Thanks to Lois Nelson of Our Saviour's Lutheran Church in Arlington Heights, IL for her incredible creativity in supporting small farmers! Lois shares her story with us here.

When I attended a Friends of Lutheran Relief luncheon a number of years back, I really got to see the impact that fair trade had on people. I heard actual numbers (what big companies vs. fair trade coops paid) and heard actual stories about how the coffee project was impacting people lives, and it really had an effect on me. I wanted to do something to help raise awareness about this important issue.

I've always been creative and crafty so after getting council approval I started to make items to sell along with the coffee at the monthly sales that would bring people over to the coffee table. At first it was coasters and flowerpots that I and a few members of my circle painted - I've since added team logos to the coasters - it's probably our biggest seller.

One day, while I was researching a project to do with my son's 3rd grade class, I came across an article about making homemade coffee clay. I explored the idea of mixing the coffee into polymer clay and forming beads to make a bigger variety of jewelry - the results were better than I expected.

Now I look at something and think to myself "how can I decorate that using coffee?" I first sold these items along with the coffee at a fair trade market that our church has every year. The response was pretty amazing... I decided to open up an online store on Artfire.com (see store and photos here) which specializes in handmade items. I also have a Artfailyaware blog and a facebook page. Again, I donate 10% (5% to World Hunger, 5% to Feeding America). Last year I donated over $50 to each organization which was pretty exciting. When I sell at church, 40% goes to the Small Farm Fund.

My goal isn't to get rich, it's to raise awareness, I also consider it my art therapy! It's also fun to see someone in the congregation wearing and enjoying one of my pieces - I have some regular customers now!

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They Call her "The Coffee Lady": Linda Elliott of First Presbyterian Church

As interviewed by Susan Sklar

Linda Elliott started a Fair Trade store in her church First Presbyterian in Charleston in West Virginia eight years ago. Her congregation sells more Equal Exchange products than any other Presbyterian church in the U.S. Recently Linda was part of a PC(USA)/Equal Exchange delegation to Nicaragua where she visited farmers and learned how to pick coffee (see photo below). Here is the "Coffee Lady's" story:

About the time I retired from teaching, I asked myself, 'What can I do now to make a difference in someone's life?' That was important to me because I’ve been blessed all of my life and felt a need to give back. I learned about the Presbyterian Coffee Project through the PC (USA) Hunger Program, made the decision to do it and have never looked back. At the time, I wasn’t sure that I could get a church committee to back me. However, the Presbyterian Women at my church seemed interested.

I decided to make a small investment of my own money and used my own credit card and placed an order. I chose Organic Breakfast Blend because it's such a staple and Organic French Roast because I knew that it would sell. Some of the ladies at the church requested flavored coffee for their bridge parties — so that was part of the first order. I talked to a customer rep at Equal Exchange and found out about the free shipping with the purchase of four cases. Then I set up two tables in the hall outside of the sanctuary and would sell between the 9:00 and 11:00 a.m. services and again after the 11:00 a.m. service. It was essential for people to see the products that they were going to buy. I also asked my minister to announce that there was fairly traded coffee for sale. He was fine with it.

Thanksgiving came; and I suggested that people use the coffee as a home gift. At Christmas people could use it as a stocking stuffer. I knew that it was "justice in a cup" and that it would appeal to anyone who really cared. Next came Valentine's Day and I promoted "Love Buzz" coffee. Later in the spring I sold it at the First Presby annual Festival of Faith.

Sometime in 2005, the Presbyterian Women were no longer comfortable with me continuing to use my own credit card. At that time the church Business Administrator agreed and gave me a credit card through the church Mission Division. I always had order forms on hand with my name and phone number as well as First Presby's phone and fax numbers. The receptionist would take orders when people called them in. Everyone in the large staff at the church has assisted the project in one way or another; they've always been happy to help.

Over the months sales kept improving. One of things that helped was gift baskets for the holidays. We asked people to save their Easter gift baskets and bring them in. There’s a woman who volunteers her time to make up baskets; she uses clear cellophane bags and seals them with a twisty and a pretty bow. We always enclose a PC(USA) Coffee Project brochure and use the stickers. People place their orders between Thanksgiving and the second week of December and choose the items that they want to put in a basket. They are charged per item. People found out about this through word of mouth and then the Charleston Gazette featured an article about the project which attracted more sales.

Sometime in 2006, the economy started to decline and this affected the church's budget. Since the receptionist position was cut, the church set up a volunteer base so that people could come for an 8 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. receptionist shift. At that point in time, we started the honor system. We leave the key to the coffee cabinet in the receptionist's drawer. People come in get the key, buy products and return the key; they give the cash or a check to the volunteer receptionist. This works beautifully. We started out with one double door cabinet and now we have two cabinets with retractable shelving that can be filled from the back. Coffee and chocolate is on one side and tea and cocoa on the other. Now my job is to order products through the Equal Exchange Internet store, stack the shelves, and so do inventory, so I know when and what to order.

When coffee is on sale, I'll buy a number of cases, but will charge the same prices. With this additional money we’ve been able to donate money to several missions such as Firefly, an organization in Africa for children with AIDS; Mayan Works, a Guatemalan women’s organization; and to other organizations such as the local food pantry. The community supports the Coffee Project more than the church does. Through word of mouth, fairs, and presentations people started calling the church and asking how they could buy Equal Exchange products. Methodists, Unitarians, Catholics, Muslims, Jews, Lutherans, and Baptists all purchase coffee, chocolate, tea, and cocoa at First Presby. My church is so proud of this project. And over all the years, I've never encountered a disgruntled customer. A drop ripples. There was a time in my life when I thought that a single person couldn’t make a difference in the world. Now I do make a difference.
 

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Laurie Flarity-White, PhD, of First United Methodist Church in Wenatchee, WA

I have a deep passion for our beautiful planet earth. The seed for this passion was planted nearly 100 years ago by my "dry dirt" (non-irrigated) poor Irish American grandparents as they eked out their hardscrabble existence in rural East Texas. My baby tree was nourished and nurtured by my gardener father, a United Methodist Minister, who taught me about his deep faith while we ate our mostly home-grown, vegetable-based dinners each night. My father’s ministry to his church members included lush vegetables and flowers, which he gifted to everyone freely. My father also planted many fruit and nut trees around the parsonage and church, leaving a living legacy. In young adulthood, my sustainability tree lay somewhat dormant as I became a psychologist and dedicated myself to growing my own family.

I was awakened from my environmental complacency by an unusual event. I met an "environmental preacher" from another continent, Marcelo da Luz with his amazing xof1 solar car (www.xof1.com). My tree flourished by helping Marcelo break the world distance record for a car that is completely powered by sunlight. I embraced his message that we all belong to one planet and need to think globally; we are all connected in this beautiful world. If one part of our world becomes sick and dies, the entire rest of the world will eventually be affected and might perish as well.

This new growth caused me to search more earnestly for ways to minimally impact the earth; recycle more, downsize instead of upgrade; conserve energy, water & resources; grow my own vegetable garden, etc. My tree grew stronger and I learned more ways to promote sustainability throughout the world and not just in my own little corner of the USA. I studied environmental research, organic farming and how to minimally impact the earth. I made the commitment to buy as many organic products as I could afford, and to buy locally when possible. I want to support farmers as much as possible, and to help them earn a fair wage which is why I buy Equal Exchange coffee/tea/chocolates. I am very happy with the quality, price and taste.

When I heard the products might not be available for purchase at our church because the program needed help, I grew new branches to embrace the program as my own. I plan on more growth in the future. I would love to use my psychology background to influence people to change their beliefs and habits to be more "earth friendly". I hope to see increased sustainability across the USA and the entire world. I would love to find ways to reduce our dependence upon petroleum products, and to increase our ability to derive our energy needs from green and sustainable energy sources. While my tree continues to grow, I intend to drink some wonderful Equal Exchange tea or coffee and indulge in the world’s most delicious chocolate along the way!
 

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Coffeehouses: A Great Way to Get the Word Out and the People In

Cheryl Gardner of Channing Unitarian Universalist Church in Rockland, MA, shares how her church's Blue Moon Coffeehouse has spread music, fairly traded coffee, and the welcoming nature of her church with the Rockland community. Many thanks to Cheryl and her community for building a more just community!

Starting a coffeehouse may seem like a big undertaking for any size church, but it's one with big benefits both for Fair Trade coffee and for the churches themselves. At the Blue Moon Coffeehouse, run out of the Channing Unitarian Universalist Church in Rockland, Massachusetts, people spend one Saturday evening a month sipping Equal Exchange coffee under twinkling blue lights while onstage a bluegrass or folk band plays another toe tapper.

There's something about Fair Trade coffee and traditional music that just go together. Coffee grown by small, fairly paid cooperatives has a lot in common with music produced with traditional instruments and simple vocal harmonies. Maybe it’s the idea of getting back to our roots. Agribusiness, like overly produced music, lacks soul. Coffeehouses provide opportunities for educating people about what it means to get back to producing what we need using fair, sustainable methods. At the Blue Moon Coffeehouse, we serve Equal Exchange coffee and we put promotional information on every table so that before the show starts and in between sets people have a few minutes to educate themselves. We also grab a few minutes from each show to talk about Equal Exchange coffee from the stage.

The people at our coffeehouse are often local people, and as likely as not their first trip inside our church was to hear the music. At our church, we have long struggled with the problem of getting people in the door. Since we started the coffeehouse, we are seeing more visitors in our church. People who come for the music on Saturday often come back for the sermon on Sunday. Visitors who come for the coffeehouse take in some of our churches values in a way that lacks pressure. Our parish hall, where our coffeehouse is located, tells a lot about who we are as a church. We have a large bulletin board of news items, a prayer flag representing many world religions, and the Universalist sign of the cross offset with the star of David in the circle prominently displayed over the stage. On the way in, people pass our table offering brochures about Unitarian Universalism, the latest newsletter, and our guest book.

If you find yourself wondering how you can reach a community unfamiliar with your values, starting a coffeehouse provides a fun, non threatening way to get the word out and the people in.
 

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INTERFAITH JOURNEY: TWO CHURCHES – TWO CARTS – TWO MEN OF ACTION

By Carol Smith and Carol Braun, First Presbyterian in Fond du Lac, WI

Holy Family Catholic Community and First Presbyterian Church in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin have converged on a path of collaboration for justice for disadvantaged coffee farmers. Supporting that effort have been social justice activists and two men who made it possible to have "carts" for the journey.
 
In 2004 when the Peace and Social Justice Taskforce at First Presbyterian began selling Equal Exchange coffee through the Presbyterian Coffee Project, they longed for a cart on which to store and sell coffee; a cart like might be used by a street vendor in a large city. One of the taskforce members, Oscar Benson envisioned a cart with a canopy saying "Coffee A la Cart." The taskforce did not have the money to buy a commercial cart so began looking for a way to have one built. Finding wheels seemed a roadblock. Oscar made it his mission to work on getting a cart. He found a produce cart in the local Pick and Save Store and asked that if the cart were ever discarded that the store consider donating it to our fair trade mission. Oscar kept is eye on the cart on every trip to the store and when plans were made for remodeling the store he stepped up his vigilance in reminding the manager that he'd like to have the cart. 

   

Finally the day came in August of 2007 that the store was ready to give up the cart. Oscar enlisted the help of his son to make the trip from the store to the church – which in the intervening year had be come the site of an ecumenical Fair Trade shop called the Just Fare Market. The cart is large and heavy and took ingenuity to take it apart enough to get it in the door of the shop. Today if serves as a wonderful centerpiece for display of fair trade foods and handcrafts.

Meanwhile meetings between people interested in fair trade at First Presbyterian and Holy Family led to a decision to combine efforts and work together in ordering coffee and supporting fair trade through the Just Fare Market. Holy Family was looking forward to completion of a new church with a large narthex with ample room for selling coffee after masses. They too thought having a cart for selling coffee was a great idea.

One of the lead Fair Trade supporters, Carol Braun, put a plea out to the congregation for someone to build a cart. A skilled craftsperson who happens to be an uncle to Carol took up the challenge. The result is perfect fit for the coffee and other fair trade food products. It is a superb job of woodworking. Most amazing is that the wheels were fashioned by hand. What follows is a description of the building of the cart written by the craftsman, Gene Leonard.

Building Sales Cart for Fair Trade Items
By Gene Leonard

Carol Braun asked for someone to make a cart for selling Fair Trade items at the new Holy Family Church. She included a website with carts so as to give an idea of what type of cart she had in mind. After looking at this site I checked out different sites that had wheels to sell but found them way too expensive. I decided I would commit to this project and I would also make the wheels.

I decided I would make it out of oak. I had gotten the wood from my brother Alex, when he cut some trees down. I helped him cut the logs into boards and clean up. I started by making a sample wheel hub on my lathe. When the sample looked right and my design advisor (my wife Mary) approved it, I turned out the two hubs using oak wood.

Next, I cut five arcs to make a 27" diameter outside rim and 24" inside rim for each wheel. I then glued the arcs together to form the two wheels. I sawed, tapered, and rounded 10 spokes for each wheel. I installed the spokes to the hubs and the rims with dowels and screws. I then routed the outside of the wheels to fit a 27" bicycle tire. I had cut most of the sidewall of the tires away. I then glued and nailed the tires to the rims to complete making the wheels.

Now I was ready to start working on the body. I planed and sawed the boards for the mainframe, legs, and canopy supports. I then glued and screwed the main frame together and attached the legs and the support for the wheels. Next I made the canopy supports and installed them. Then it was on to making the shelves from oak plywood and cutting strips for trim on the shelve edges. Installing brackets for the wall shelves completed the cart.

We delivered the cart to Holy Family after a somewhat difficult job of getting the cart out of our basement.

Thanks to my wife for sewing the canopy and for the staining and sealing of the cart. In all it took about 70 hours, 40 for the wheels and 30 for the rest. I enjoyed working on this cart.
 

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Ed and Carol Grove, Zion Lutheran Church in New Hartford, NY

Ed and Carole Grove traveled to Nicaragua on a trip sponsored Lutheran World Relief and Equal Exchange in 2007. "I had the benefit of the eyewitness experience to the difference Fair Trade makes in people's lives," Carole said. She and her husband, Ed, initially became interested in Fair Trade as owners of Bagel Grove café in Utica, New York. "How you live has a direct impact on how others live," Carole said. "This is not theoretical; the difference is real."

The Groves came back home to New York and began sharing what they learned and saw with others – especially congregations. They’ve spoken to over 20 groups, and have also taught classes on Fair Trade at the Mohawk Valley Institute for Learning in Retirement. "Sharing the images and words of real people with others helps bring them into that experience and hopefully motivates them to make thoughtful choices," Carole said. "As an activist, I have felt my role is to challenge people's attitudes and actions – to make them think and hopefully make positive changes."

Ed said the best payoff is the ripple effect that can occur. One example stands out in particular. "A teenager from a youth retreat – when it had seemed the kids were bored – went home and gave a special presentation on Fair Trade to her congregation," Ed said. "The feeling is that, just like Fair Trade in general, it can look like you're making so little difference or that it's so small and won’t matter – but, it does!"

While the Groves recognize that Fair Trade involves complex issues, they believe Equal Exchange offers the clearest solution.

"We definitely feel that Equal Exchange is a company of great integrity," Carole said. "We always promote Equal Exchange as the best of Fair Trade choices."