Writer and Photographer / Stephanie Duncan
After moving to the Nora-based location in 2011, assistant manager Lisa Lorentz wants to spread the word about Global Gifts’ new location, hoping to attract new people to the store. Nestled in the shopping center of Nora Plaza, Global Gifts isn’t immediately noticeable from the street, but Lorentz is excited to serve the Nora neighborhood with a one-of-a-kind shopping experience. Global Gifts is a not-for-profit fair trade store, serving more than 40 countries with impoverished communities.
Located at 1300 E. 86th St. #17 in Indianapolis, Global Gifts is a store that provides handmade gifts like jewelry, scarves and accessories that are exclusively from fair trade producers and artisans. Global Gifts itself has been serving Indianapolis residents since the 1980s, but Lorentz says most people aren’t aware of the relatively new location.
Still, Lorentz is positive and jumps at the opportunity to educate new customers about Global Gifts’ unique mission. “We have really unique gifts that you won’t find in other stores,” she says. “You’re supporting an organization that makes an impact on an individual person.” The store provides an outlet for people in these impoverished countries to sell their items, giving them opportunities to have long-term employment and better their communities.
This store is just one of four locations: downtown on Massachusetts Ave, Bloomington and a newly opened store in Columbus, Ohio. Global Gifts first started in the basement of the Indianapolis First Mennonite Church, becoming a separate storefront in 1988. They are a 501©(3) not-for-profit organization and are able to operate with help from mostly volunteers.
“The big a-ha moment for people when they come in is that we are non-profit and have volunteers,” Lorentz says. The Nora location only has three employees: two full-time and one part-time. The rest are volunteers. Lorentz says having a big staff of volunteers helps keep the costs of running the business low and also allows the store to keep sustainable relationships with the artisans.
The Global Gifts mission statement is to provide vital, fair income and employment for people of limited opportunity; market ethically produced and ethically obtained handmade products; educate the public about the cultures and traditions associated with the items sold; and help consumers spend their shopping dollars in ways that benefit impoverished people around the world.
Everything Global Gifts sells is intended to sustainably improve the lives of the producers. They do that by adhering to fair trade principles like a fair wage, safe working conditions and providing business training. One way they do this is by searching for the most fashion forward, desirable quality items in the fair trade world to keep customers coming back to the store.
Some of these items include products made by the Imani Workshops in Kenya. The Imani Workshops provide artisans who have been affected by HIV/AIDS with job training, employment opportunities and healthcare. They create handmade jewelry, accessories and paper goods. Global Gifts just became the U.S. Fair Trade wholesaler for Imani Workshops.
Other unique gifts include paper products made by a company, Mr. Ellie Pooh, where the paper is made from elephant dung. This company started in order to find a way to prevent the slaughter of elephants in rural communities of Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is home to 1/10th of the population of Asian elephants that remain in the wild. Elephants interfere with the rural agriculture community, and Mr. Ellie Pooh was created in order to make the elephants a sustainable economic resource. Elephants are vegetarian, so their waste is cleaned, processed and made into acid free, linen-like paper that can be used for art, notebooks, cards and gifts.
Lorentz said the Mr. Ellie Pooh paper is a hit with children. When they have Girl Scout troops visit, Lorentz likes to give them a piece of the paper in order to divulge the unique story behind it. “The first thing they do when I tell them what it’s made of is they smell it!” she says. Lorentz says educating customers is important because those stories will stick with them well past their visit.
In addition to selling items including greeting cards, bags, jewelry, toys and wall hangings, the store hosts events to explain and promote the fair trade philosophy. They have events like Community Shopping Nights where they donate 10 percent of proceeds to various local organizations like FACE animal clinic, Habitat for Humanity and the Indiana Recycling Coalition. They also host events for Fair Trade month that celebrate the unique cultures that their products come from.
For more information about Global Gifts, visit globalgiftsft.com.
Nora Store Hours:
Monday-Thursday 10 a.m.-6:30 p.m.
Friday 10 a.m.-8 p.m.
Saturday 10 a.m.-6:30 p.m.
Sunday 12-5 p.m.