This year might be the 70th annual bazaar for St. Mark's United Methodist Church, but in some ways, the milestone is also a new beginning.
When the bazaar returns Saturday, it will be the first time it is held in the church's new location on Minner Avenue, where the congregation moved from its longtime location on McCray Street earlier this year.
"This is the first one here, so we're excited to see how it works out here," said church secretary Toni Robinson.
Although the church's United Methodist Women (UMW) group is having to contend with a smaller building while planning this year's bazaar, the space is, at least, all theirs. In the years between when St. Mark's sold its McCray Street property to Grace Assembly of God until this year when it moved to Minner Avenue, the congregation had to share the building with the new residents.
"Everybody spent their lives in that church," Robinson said of the McCray location, where the church had been since its 1946 groundbreaking. "It was a hard move. Now everybody is putting their hearts into this one."
A big part of the heart of St. Mark's is the fall bazaar, which typically gets around 100 to 200 people throughout the day, which is many more people than the congregation of about 30. Now that St. Mark's has its own place, the women can take their time setting up the fall bazaar. Last week, a few of the ladies were already hard at work "cleaning and fluffing" various items for the event.
"People have been coming for years, and we're always happy when they come again," said Jane Hornsby, president of the UMW. "It opens at 9 and we have people waiting outside to come in."
At the bazaar, the women will sell homemade items like jams, doilies, hand towels and other crafts, as well as second-hand items like jewelry, collectibles and home goods. Among the finds are a stained-glass art piece, a gold-wired Christmas tree and some Santas.
"They go shopping all year long," Robinson said. "They put a lot of their heart, sweat and tears into it."
The women will also sell vegetable beef soup ($2.50) and cinnamon rolls ($1.50) for something to eat before or after browsing.
There are about 10 to 15 women involved in the bazaar and UMW, which is nearly all of the women in the church, Robinson said. About six or seven make up the core organizational group. One member, 105-year-old Vestal Southwick, will serve as the bazaar's greeter on Saturday.
"We're hanging in there," said Dot Kuester, who has been working on the bazaar for decades and currently serves as the UMW vice president. "We are small but we are mighty."
Kuester said the baked goods (like cookies, candies, cakes and jellies) are usually the best-sellers of the bazaar, though the jewelry table she oversees does pretty good business too.
"I love to sell things and to visit with the people," Kuester said. "We see them every year."
Proceeds from the bazaar allow the UMW to help with local charities, including the Salvation Army, Teen Challenge and homeless shelters.
People should attend St. Mark's bazaar this weekend, Kuester said, "to support us in our efforts. We're the only money-making group in the church."
"And our money goes to good causes," Hornsby said.