Craft fairs brings work, income to impoverished area


TORRINGTON – Straight from the mountains of southeastern Kentucky to the rolling hills of eastern Wyoming, hand-made crafts will be available this weekend at Torrington United Methodist Church.

The church will host an Appalachian Craft Fair, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 10 and immediately following services, about 11 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 11. The church is located at 2702 Main Street in Torrington.

The Rev. Jeff Wayland, minister at the Methodist Church in Torrington, first encountered one of the Appalachian Craft Fairs when he pastored a church in Colorado. The craft fairs are co-sponsored by Red Bird Mission Crafts, an outreach of the United Methodist Church based in Beverly, Ky., one of the most impoverished counties in the country, he said.

“This was a mission started by the Methodist Women around the turn of the century,” Wayland said. “I think it fits well with our mission of creating disciples in the world. 

“The women saw a need in that area and this is the way they addressed it,” he said. “It’s one of the many ways the Methodist Church reaches out beyond our walls to help serve other people.”

Red Bird Mission teaches the residents of Beverly and Bell County how to improve their crafting skills, as well as helping them become better business people. The Mission purchases the completed crafts directly from the crafters, then sells them around the country to recoup the expense and to further its work, Wayland said.

“The mission works with the people in area to help get them to level of self-sufficiency,” he said. “They help them hone their craft, become independent business people.

“I believe it’s a good mission for them,” Wayland said. “They’re really wonderful crafts, made out of local materials – coal, wood, natural plants from area.”

The fair will feature the best of the crafter’s bench, from handmade honeysuckle vine, creek willow and reed baskets, to dolls to corn-shuck flowers. 

Woodworkers have produced toys, games, stools and benches. A variety of holiday-themed items, including wood or cloth Christmas ornaments, nativity sets and unique Santa Claus dolls will also be available.

Originally established as a mission school in 1921, the mission has served the Red Bird Valley for almost a century, an area of the Cumberland Mountains region facing as much as 50 percent unemployment.

While continuing to educate children and young people through its school, the Red Bird Mission assists families with a dental clinic, health education, community housing improvements and a thrift store, in addition to sponsoring the craft fairs around the country which bring much-needed income to the community.


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