Church's holiday market is forced to go virtual

Church's holiday market is forced to go virtual

LINDENWOOD PARK – For the last five years or so, dozens of vendors sold their wares to about 1,000 happy shoppers at Timothy Lutheran Church’s annual Weihnachtsmarkt.

The church, at 6704 Fyler Avenue, expected about 40 vendors at this year’s event, set for Dec. 12. But then its leaders were told the crowd would violate city health department rules for social gatherings during the COVID-19 emergency.

So organizers reluctantly canceled. It wasn’t what they wanted to do, said the Rev. Andrew Dinger, the church’s lead pastor, but they understood.

“We were ready to go,” Dinger said. However, when they were told the winter market would violate a social gathering limit of 10, the church leaders decided “Let’s not do it, to be good to the community.”

“2020 would have been our fifth year for the Weihnachtsmarkt, and I was very disappointed that it was canceled,” Marla Steenock, the event’s co-chair, said in an email. “It is a wonderful event for the community and Timothy Lutheran. We had hoped that an outdoor event would be permitted.”

“I felt very bad for the small business vendors as we wanted the market to provide a financial boost for them.”

Steenock continued, “The market allows Timothy Lutheran to show the community that we are here, present in the neighborhood and available to connect with those in need. The vendors, community and Timothy’s congregation were all understanding of the decision to cancel the market.”

“2020 has been a year of loss [and] disappointment, but safety is the No. 1 concern for Timothy Lutheran, and we wanted to make sure that we were abiding by city guidelines,” Steenbock explained. “The feedback from the vendors is that they cannot wait to participate again next year. So many people have reached out to me with understanding as to why the market was canceled, and they too will come back next year.”

To make up for the loss, vendors that provided a business website/link to Timothy were placed on a Facebook event page so people could virtually shop.

“The vendors were very pleased and seem to be doing well with their sales,” Steenbock said.

Not all of the vendors who were scheduled to come were happy about the change in plans.

One was Sue Jackson. For the last three years, she sold items at the event to benefit the nonprofit Laughing Bear Bakery, which provides jobs for former inmates at federal and state penitentiaries. This year, she hoped to sell note cards printed with her own photography, holiday centerpieces, face masks and other items.

“Yes I am upset,” Jackson said in an email.

“First, and purely selfishly, I invested a lot of money into the items I planned to sell,” she said. “This particular event is fun, family friendly, and dependably loaded with fantastic holiday shopping opportunities,  so I anticipated making some money there. I need it!”

Jackson said that her salary had been cut and that she was supporting her chronically ill daughter who is homeless because of her intolerance to environmental pollutants.

Jackson is trying to sell her cards on Facebook. Also, her workplace allowed her to sell her wares there one day. Her employer “kindly said I could set up my things to sell one day in the building conference room,” she said.

Jackson said she didn’t understand why this event was canceled when others weren’t.

“Doesn’t make sense to me,” she said. “We need to help and encourage people to make money in hard times. And we need to give them glimmers of hope by the annual returning of festive, happy events.”

Jacob Long, director of communications for Mayor Lyda Krewson, said: “Organizations, events and venues in town are supposed to submit their operational plans to the Health Department for review and approval to ensure they’re adhering to all required COVID-19 public health guidance.”

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