As winter weather (finally) arrives in western North Carolina, many families across the region will struggle with the financial burden of home heating costs. To help its neighbors in Madison County manage these costs, local nonprofit organization Madison Has HEArT is hosting its third annual Fanciful Flea event on February 13 from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. at the Marshall Island Studios in downtown Marshall.
Unlike a typical fundraising event, the Fanciful Flea offers a wide variety of unique antiques and donated items for attendees to peruse and purchase, ranging from high-end clothing and accessories to big screen televisions and furniture, says Nancy Alenier, one of the event’s organizers.
“Donations have included heirloom silver and china, paintings and pottery, antique furniture, unique housewares and curios, vintage clothing, fine jewelry, collectible books and records, a kayak, mid-Century Japanese scrolls and ceramics and loads of other upscale clothing and home furnishings,” Alenier says of this year’s offerings.
The event sprung out of organizer Pat Franklin’s relationship with neighbor Martha Abraham, who worked in the fashion industry for many years before moving to Madison County.
“[Abraham] was grateful to the mountain folks for preserving the local heritage and beauty of the area,” Franklin says. “She wanted a way to repay the locals for that and decided to pare down some of her belongings so that they could be sold to raise money to benefit the community.”
Abraham called on several colleagues in the fashion world to help contribute to MHH’s cause and soon “the donations started pouring in” from across the country, Franklin says.
Donors to this year’s campaign includes items from Mars Hill’s Vintage Fab clothing store and an upscale wedding gown donated by a “runaway bride,” says Alenier, as well as to a variety of fine art and crafts from regional artists.
But the Fanciful Flea is more than a simple way to get one-of-a-kind merchandise — it’s a chance for the community to congregate, says Franklin. Scratch-made meals, pastries and beverages will be provided by Marshall culinary favorites Zuma Coffee and The Sweet Monkey Bakery. Live music from gospel/soul/country act Carpenter Ants from West Virginia, Marshall’s own swing jazz ensemble The Low Down Sires and singer-songwriter Scott Bianchi will fill the day.
While the focus of the flea event is all about having a good time, Alenier reminds us that the cause it serves is a serious one for many residents. “Madison County doesn’t have many of the resources available to people that more populated urban areas can offer,” she notes. “Staying warm when it’s cold is a fundamental need, but is out-of-reach to many in our community. People who are isolated with limited means are often out-of-view and too proud to get tangled-up in the red tape of government assistance.”
Madison Has HEArT works hand in hand with Neighbors In Need, a local crisis intervention program that helps those in the Madison community cope with financial difficulties. “All proceeds from the Fanciful Flea are used for heating assistance,” Alenier says, offering one example of the value of their work: “We got a message from a grandmother whose daughter in Madison County just had a baby [a couple weeks ago] – but the home had no heat. We were told that the mom was keeping the baby in one room with a space heater to keep it safe and warm — Within an hour, one of our volunteers had contacted the family, and [the next morning], funds were made available to help.”
In addition to the annual flea market, MHH is working towards restoring their new base of operations at the historic Methodist Church at Jewell Hill, which was donated to the organization last year to assist in their fundraising endeavors.
Alenier says they plan to host musical performances, weddings and other special events at Jewell Hill in the near-future. “Any way that seems fit to honor the history of the church and the generosity of the community,” She adds. “Funds from those events will be invested in renovating the church and once completed, in heating assistance.”
For those interested in donating their antiques and unused items to to this year’s Flea, Madison Has HEArT has partnered with several organizations and businesses around the county which serve as collection centers (see sidelight). Those living outside of Madison County who wish to donate should contact Pat Franklin by phone at (828) 206-2332 or reach out to the organization through its Facebook page or website.
“This year’s event will feature amazing food, music and fun,” adds Alenier, who encourages all who can to come out to Marshall for the day. “Madison Has Heart’s Fanciful Flea is not only raising funds; we’re friend-raising and awareness-raising of the value of neighbors-helping-neighbors.”
For more information on the Fanciful Flea, a schedule of times and snow date and other information on how you can donate or assist Madison Has HEArT in providing heating assistance to the community, visit madisonhasheart.org.