Shoppers support local early learning programs
LaGRANGE — Hundreds of people packed into the Callaway Conference Center this weekend to get ahead on their Christmas shopping and help children get ahead in school.
The sixth annual Merry Market welcomed vendors and shoppers from around the area starting Thursday night. The fundraising event wrapped up Saturday afternoon.
“I like that we bring in vendors from all over the country,” said Patty Youngblood, executive director of the United Way of West Georgia. “Merry Market gives people the opportunity to buy things they normally wouldn’t find in LaGrange.”
Tonya Sadler, owner of the Casserole Shop and Bakery and Caroletta’s Cakes in Macon, said some customers were eager for her return to Merry Market.
“I had people from LaGrange call the store to see what I was bringing back this year,” Sadler said with a smile. “My cheese straws, dip and caramel cakes are pretty much the star of the show for us.”
This was Sadler’s second time to the shopping extravaganza in LaGrange.
“It’s been a great show. It’s well organized, the vendors are treated so well and we’re pleased with our sales. This kicks off the holiday season for us,” Sadler said.
Anne Day, owner of the Gift N’ Green in Gainesville, also returned to Merry Market for the second year in a row.
“The people were so nice here and I got a lot of follow up business after last year’s event,” she said. “A lot of my customers from last year came back this year, too.”
The shopping event had something for everyone: from holiday decor to home goods, plus beauty products, clothing, jewelry, food items and much more.
“I need to get this one,” said one shopper as she pointed to a hand-painted sign.
This year the Women’s Leadership Council headed up the event. The group added a “Breakfast With the Elves” for children plus plenty of musical acts to keep folks entertained as they shopped.
All the proceeds from Merry Market funds early learning programs in Troup County.
“We’ve expanded our Success By Six program by using these (Merry Market) funds … it’s allowed us to have a partnership with First Book. We can buy books from them at a reduced rate,” said Youngblood. “We’re trying to get as many books into the hands of young children as we can.”
The money was also recently used to fund a grant for the Troup County School System that purchased early learning books for the Pediatric Community Collaborative program. The books were given to children visiting doctors at the Children’s Clinic in LaGrange.
Customers and vendors realize there is more behind the Merry Market than just shopping, said Stephanie Preston, chairwoman of the 2016 event.
“We had people come in and just buy a raffle ticket or make a straight donation to early learning. They know how important these programs are to our community,” she said. “It was really joyous to see people with kind hearts.”
The Merry Market has raised almost $100,000 for early learning programs over the past five years, Preston added.