Imagine The Christmas Shop of 1920, women wearing hats and gloves perusing the collection of shops with handbags dangling on their wrists. Friends, mothers and daughters eagerly looked forward to this annual holiday tradition, visiting The Christmas Shop to enjoy the variety of offerings from near and far and knowing that their patronage supported the charitable needs of our community.
The times have changed but the purpose of the annual fundraiser — now called The Perfect Gift — has not.
In fact, the Christmas Shop Foundation has proudly donated more than $1,500,000 to 130 charitable organizations in Delaware. Now celebrating its 96th year, The Perfect Gift of 2016 will be held Saturday, Oct 29 and Sunday, 30 at Arsht Hall at the University of Delaware’s Wilmington campus.
TSD talked with Christmas Shop Foundation Board Chair Zig Shields to learn more about what’s in store for this year’s show and plans for carrying on this uniquely Wilmington tradition.
Town Square Delaware: Please tell us why carrying on the mission of the Christmas Shop Foundation is so important to its volunteers and our community.
Zig Shields: We do it to benefit to our community, to continue the history of the Foundation, and for the fun of it!
We enjoy the process, and we welcome new volunteers. Of course, 96 years of charitable giving means that our beneficiaries count on the opportunity to receive funds from us. How can we stop trying to help them? Their needs never stop.
TSD: The Christmas Shop Foundation had a great run for many years as an extremely successful fundraising initiative, with multiple years raising over $100,000 for Delaware charities and non-profits. What changes in the marketplace have had the biggest impact on your show?
Shields: Besides the obvious changes to the Delaware economy, which have seriously impacted every non-profit in Delaware, access to nearly everything one could want is online and has changed the way people shop. The Christmas Shop Foundation has been very cognizant of these changes and has strived to make The Perfect Gift a must-see event by bringing a rich variety of shops to Wilmington.
People come to The Perfect Gift to shop because they know that their purchases help Delaware non-profits; if you’re going to shop for the holidays, why not shop where your money will benefit others?
TSD: Please tell us about your initiative this year to raise awareness of some of the historic gems of the Brandywine Valley?
Shields: This partnership is our way of honoring the Brandywine Valley and to highlight the rich history and beauty it represents.
This year we are delighted to have three iconic Brandywine Valley museums joining us at The Perfect Gift as exhibitors:
- Brandywine River Museum of Art
- Hagley Museum
- Winterthur Museum and Gardens
They will bring their museum shops to The Perfect Gift, and we’re proud to spotlight their cultural significance.
This partnership is a wonderful example of how non-profits can help one another thrive. Our charitable giving will continue to be to non-profits who need our help the most.
TSD: Last year The Perfect Gift embraced two big changes by moving the show dates to a weekend and the location to University of Delaware’s Wilmington campus, Arsht Hall. How did shoppers respond to the changes?
Shields: Not everyone likes change, but change can be invigorating! With a new location and new dates, we are able to reach new shoppers while keeping the old.
Meanwhile, the benchmark for any non-profit is, how much of your dollar is going toward your goal? We are increasingly mindful of that benchmark and are constantly looking for ways to be more effective with our donations and we think the public appreciates that.
TSD: What improvements can we look forward to this year?
Shields: 96 years is a long time to stay the same; we’re always evolving and improving.
This year, the highlight of The Perfect Gift will be our partnership with some of the distinctive Brandywine Valley museums as well as our wonderful roster of shops from up and down the East Coast. We’re very excited about this year’s Perfect Gift and the possibilities for more partnerships in the future. We look forward to welcoming all shoppers!