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Products promote culture

Story by Sharon Stauffer

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Baker University’s People-to-People sale has just as much intricate design and depth as some of the items included in the sale itself.

Judith Smrha, faculty sponsor for Baker’s Phi Beta Delta chapter, said members of the honorary organization for students taking part in international education help organize and buy items for the sale every year to provide funds for the Milan-Harris Award for Promoting Diversity.

“With International Education Week happening in November and because the honor society is focused on international studies, it’s a natural time for us to do things,” Smrha said. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s probably one of the most successful things we do. I think people, by this point, come to expect the sale, which is a good thing. People look forward to buying stuff.”

Smrha said this is the eighth consecutive year for the sale, and it came about because a former faculty member, Kathy Marian, was familiar with the non-profit organization SERRV International and suggested it as a fund-raising idea.

“SERRV is an organization that contracts … with crafts people around the world,” Smrha said. “The idea is giving them an opportunity to sell (the products) in the United States, so (SERRV members) act as a go-between and purchase the hand-crafted items providing the folks a much better deal than they would get through commercial ventures.”

Smrha said SERRV works with other non-profit organizations like schools and churches, or anyone who wants to do a fund-raiser.

“We become a consignment customer,” Smrha said. “We’re able to buy directly from (SERRV) and the expectation is we will … make some money.”

Special Services Coordinator Cindy Novelo said SERRV International is a great organization because it allows people to purchase handmade products from countries in Latin America, Asia and Africa, as well as benefit people in those countries.

“You’re supporting actual people in developing nations, you’re getting cool products for yourself and you’re making it possible to provide (a scholarship) for a Baker student,” Novelo said.

Sophomore Erin Blackburn said she was Christmas shopping and bought a bracelet made in India at the sale.

“I was looking for something for someone in my family, and this worked,” Blackburn said. “I guess it’s cool because where else are you going to find a bracelet from India.”

Senior Mandy Lenkey said she liked all the items at the sale and was planning on buying something.

“I like to support purchasing products from people who actually craft them, instead of machine-made,” Lenkey said. “That’s one of the reasons I really like the jewelry.”

Residence Life Coordinator Allison Scahill said it was the fifth People-to-People sale she’s attended, and she said she liked the variety of items from different countries.

“I think it’s a great way for people to see things from different cultures,” Scahill said.

Freshman Megan Nelson said she received an e-mail about the sale and decided to check the items out for herself.

“I looked at a bunch of things, and I was like, ‘Well, that’d be cool,’ and I saw a bunch of stuff I wanted to look at and see what it really looked like,” Nelson said. “I heard it goes toward scholarships and stuff, and I thought that’d be cool to help out because I know how much scholarships mean to me.”

Smrha said the chapter usually sells between $1,000 and $1,500 worth of merchandise, but only earns about $200 for the scholarship fund.

“We don’t sell it all, but part of being a consignment is you do have the opportunity to return items,” she said. “So I always have a box to ship back. The hope is the box is small.”

Smrha said one of the most important but tedious tasks involved in preparing for the sale is unpacking all of the boxes of merchandise and making sure everything that was ordered was received.

“You have to inspect it for damage, then you have to go through and figure out what your sticker price, which is our final sale price – what we’re going to charge for everything,” Smrha said. “This can be a pretty complicated process.”

Smrha said Phi Beta Delta receives help figuring the total cost of items from Bronston Fellows, who are students enrolled in the honors Introduction to Business class.

“It’s a good project because it’s all about business control and record keeping and calculating markup of pricing,” Smrha said. “It’s a bit of a retail experience for them and just organizing themselves as a single unit to do this thing and get it done in about an hour and a half. It provides them an opportunity to provide a service to someone else on campus. It’s a big help.”

Today is the last day of the People-to-People sale, which will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. in Harter Union lobby.

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