Alternative Gift Market (Chaplain’s Office)

“Ahhh… Christmas. A bountiful time of food, family,
brightly decorated trees with presents piled around them,
warm cider, cookies, and water buffaloes.” Letitia Campbell, The Davidsonian, 1993

Scan of a red paper flyer for the Alternative Gift Fair with the text, "Alternative Gift Fair, Sunday, December, 7, 2-4 PM in the College Union. Bringing Peace and Joy for the Christmas Season."


Since 1993, Davidson College has hosted an Alternative Gift Market during the Christmas season. Rather than buying material gifts, students who buy from the Alternative Gift Market provide life-giving gifts to people in need in our global community. Shoppers are given a “shopping list to the world,” which consists of a list of possible organizations to which they can donate.

The different causes are split up into categories, including Hunger Relief, Shelter, Medical Assistance, Environment, Development, Livestock, Education, and Peace/Rehabilitation. While the categories are constant, the different causes to donate to vary, depending on the year.

Overall, the issues are similar, and range from providing milk cows for tribal women in India to donating eyes surgeries in Cameroon to empowering Sioux students in South Dakota.

In addition to providing international relief, students who attend Davidson’s Gift Market can also donate to local organizations. Starting in 1996, Ada Jenkins provided a “shopping list for Ada Jenkins” to accompany shoppers’ “shopping list for the world.” Every year, three or four local organizations set up a booth at the market to give Davidson students an opportunity to serve their more immediate community in addition to their global one.

Scanned paper of Shopping List for Ada Jenkins, 1996 Market

Shopping List for Ada Jenkins Center

After choosing an organization to support, shoppers receive a hand-made card from that organization. This card can be given to their friends and family members in lieu of material Christmas gifts.

Donors, card-recipients, and those in need all receive joy and blessings at Christmas thanks to the Alternative Gift Market.

Davidson hosts the Alternative Gift Market through the national organization, Alternative Gift Markets, Inc. (AGMI). Founded in 1980 in California at the Pasadena Presbyterian Church, Harriet C. Prichard started the organization because she believed life-giving gifts for the world’s poor were a way of bringing honor to Christ on His birthday (Facts about AGMI Flyer).

Prichard organized a simple market, held in the church’s patio, where people from the congregation were asked to sell rice for Vietnam, chickens for Africa, and trees for Central America. The idea began to spread in southern California as more and more churches and schools held markets.

In 1986, Prichard organized a non-profit corporation to keep pace with the many organizations, schools, and churches that wanted information on how to develop authentic gift giving through alternative gifts. AGMI is now a non-denominational, interfaith ministry dedicated to the task of global education and building partnerships with the poor for their self-development. After only eight seasons, AGMI had raised more than five million dollars for God’s family in need (Facts about AGMI Flyer).

Image of people at the 1996 Alternative Gift Market

Alternative Gift Market, 1996

The Alternative Gift Market made its way from California to Davidson College due to the efforts of Letitia Campbell ’96, who read about the organization in the magazine Presbyterian Survey. In a letter she wrote to the editor, Campbell says she was so impressed by the organization that she “called for an information packet before [she] had even finished reading it, took the information back to school with [her], and got other students involved with the idea and it’s implementation.”

Rob Spach, Davidson’s Chaplain, assisted Campbell in bringing the Alternative Gift Market to Davidson. As he explains in an interview, Campbell was a lifelong Presbyterian who “saw [the market] as a way to bring to Davidson the embodiment of her concern for justice in the world. She believed it was a great alternative to the gift giving that happens at Christmas that isn’t necessarily thinking about the need of those in the Christian family who have very little.”

For Campbell, the Alternative Gift Market mirrored her understanding of the Christian faith as a “beautiful way to contribute to the work of nourishing peace, understanding, dignity, and well-being within our global family” (Campbell).

In its first year, Davidson’s Alternative Gift Market raised over $6,500, enough for 31 children in Ghana to have vision-saving operations, for 2 women in Nepal to learn to read, to send more than $6,000 worth of antibiotics and medical supplies to Armenia and Bosnia, and to save 19 acres of rain forest, among other things (Campbell).

Since 1993, Davidson’s Alternative Gift Market has raised a total of $102,500. Spach believes that buying these gifts is a “recognition that Jesus himself cared about and moved about people who were poor and marginalized. By giving these gifts, we honor the very people He cared about the most” (Funk).

Works Cited

Campbell, Letitia. “Save the World and buy a gift at the Alternative Gift Market.” The     Davidsonian. 6 December 1993.

Campbell, Letitia M. “An Idea Put to Work” Letter. Presbyterian Survey. Apr. 1994:7-8.

“Chaplain’s Office’s Involvement with Service.” Interview by Ginny Evans and Allison Jones. March 2011. Davidson College, NC.

Facts About Alternative Gift Markets, INC. Flyer.Circa 1994. RG 6/6.1. Chaplain’s Office Records.Davidson College Archives, Davidson College, NC.

Funk, Tim. “The true gifts of Christmas.” The Charlotte Observer. 9 Dec. 2000: 1F, 4F.


Author: Allison Jones
Date: April 2011

Cite as: Jones, Allison, “Alternative Gift Market (Chaplain’s Office),” Davidson Encyclopedia, 21 April 2011.

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