It's all a bit Bazaar... Volunteering at my community centre's Christmas Bazaar

Who doesn't love a local fete? It's a great way of supporting your local community and smashing in a bargain at the same time. I still regale my friends with the incredibly interesting story of how I came into possession of my favourite tree at my local church fete three years ago. It's a beautiful eucalyptus hich I bought for £4 and it's now firmly planted in my back garden. I wish I'd bought two, as I keep trying to take cuttings from it and it's not working out that well. See? Great story.

I recently joined the management committee of my local community centre, the North East Mitcham Community Association (NEMCA for short). I've known my local councillor, Linda, for almost two years now, ever since I started volunteering at the beginning of the pandemic, when I tried to sustain my local area with tomato plants. It was about a year ago that I really got to know her though when I first started regularly volunteering at the food bank, as she is there most weeks, and while there she asked me if I wanted to get involved in the community centre. It's a project she's been involved in for about 30 years, and now that Linda's in her 70s she's looking for new people to bring energy to the centre. I figured, why not? It's incredibly close to where I live and it's also something I can take my son to (they have toys there, and he's quite happy bombing around).

NEMCA is a registered charity, and relies on fundraisers like this to keep certain activities going, such as Coffee and Crayons and Jollytime. These are much-needed sessions for parents to go with their children to keep the kids occupied and give the adults some grown-up time. A fundraiser like this can pay for a year's worth of crayons or teabags. It's also really important to run events like this so that we can remind the local community that we're here and we have lots going on.

I haven't been to a proper management meeting yet as I was on holiday for the last one, but the first major event that has come along (almost out of nowhere) is the Christmas Bazaar. Bizarrely (or bazaarly) I've not actually been to a NEMCA Bazaar before, even though I've been living in the area for almost six years. This was to be my first one, and it was here that I would be able to meet my fellow management colleagues. I don't want to disrespect the work that was put into the poster, but I think for our next Bazaar I'm going to offer up my skills on Canva. They have some really good templates.

On the morning of the 27th, I got to the community centre for about half past nine, and it was a hub of activity already in the centre. I was put to work straight away, sorting through the teddies for the Teddy Tombola. All of the teddies had been washed previously, and whoever washed them used a really good-smelling fabric softener. I was sorting all of the raffle numbers out so that they would be easy to find when someone picked a number. There were so many toys! It was a lovely atmosphere in the centre, with Christmas songs playing in the background, the centre manager's dog (Obi the Bichon Frise) running about and everyone chatting away.

Once the teddies were all set-up, I was able to help set out the other donated items on the stalls and, given how much stuff we had, I'd say that there were quite a lot of attic clearances that have happened in the last few weeks. We had some amazing donations, especially on the children's toy stand. There were lots of happy children walking away at the end of the day, and lots of happy parents who managed to secure a bargain. My son ended up with some Thomas Trackmaster track - he was very pleased.

Time to fundraise!

My job for the day was to sell raffle tickets. We had some really good hampers on offer, as well as some great children's prizes. There were two raffles - one for adults and one for kids and they were £1 per ticket. It got really busy on my stall, and I reckon I took a couple of hundred quid on my stand. I also got to meet everyone as they came in.

As for my own purchases, I ended up getting some great swag too. I got some brand new Barbour wax which I can use on my lovely old Barbour jacket and a Molton Brown soapy Christmas bauble - all for the princely sum of £2. Even though I was running the raffle, I didn't draw it and bought some tickets. When the raffle was drawn, I won a bottle of Cognac which I was pretty pleased with. I'll end up re-gifting it to my dad who cooks with it a lot (he knows it's a re-gift by the way, I already told him about it. I'm not a total tight-arse).

How much was raised?!

We raised a whopping £908 in the two hours we were open, which is a record for the NEMCA Bazaar. Tina, the centre manager, told me that they usually raise between £600-£700, so I'm really chuffed that we absolutely smashed the record.

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