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The Helping Hands Art & Craft Fair Serves the Community

How bad news turned into thousands of dollars for families in need
Photo by: Carter Epley
Mrs. Aaholm holding a yard sign made to promote the craft fair.

For many years, Walmart ran a grant program with which they gave Neenah High School a grant of $1,000 every year, in order to help students whose families were in urgent financial need. In 2008, however, Walmart announced they were ending the program and sent NHS a check for 25 bucks. 

Ms. Shelley Aaholm, hired in 1994, was a Spanish teacher at NHS when this happened, and she was appalled by Walmart’s decision. She and a group of other teachers got together and generated the idea to hold a craft fair in order to raise the funds they no longer had. The first Helping Hands Art & Craft Fair, held in 2008, had 43 vendors and raised just over $1,200. Last year, in 2022, with over 140 vendors, raised over $18,000. 

As the coordinator of the event, it is Ms. Aaholm’s job to organize the fair, but she does not do it alone. Every year, she asks for student volunteers in her Spanish classes. This year, there are over 30 students signed up at different times to set up and run the fair. 

Money raised at the craft fair every year goes to a couple different things. The primary focus of the funding is for families in urgent financial need. Money goes to things like food for Thanksgiving and gift cards to buy presents for the holiday season. While things like food for Thanksgiving may not seem like a huge deal, it can help tons for those raising a family with little income. 

It’s ‘fair’ to say that the craft fair has outgrown its original purpose of simply raising money for families in urgent financial need. And indeed, it has, with money from the fair each year going toward a Helping Hands scholarship of $1,000 to give to underprivileged students, and Ms. Aaholm plans to start another scholarship in the future. Additionally, because of the fair, NHS has been able to open up The Orbit, a food/hygiene/clothing closet at school. 

The craft fair is held at the Ron Einerson Fieldhouse in the new middle school each year. The event features different vendors that feature all sorts of goods and products that really jump out at customers such as decoration, supplies, comfort and much more. Patrons can visit the book sale run by Mrs. Molly Brown, enter the raffle run, by Mrs. Kelly Keating and her daughter, to win all sorts of goodies, or buy some of the custom made Neenah wear made by the downtown campus. Additonally, while shopping, Touch of Class will provide entertainment by filling the Fieldhouse with lovely music. 

The Helping Hands Art & Craft Fair has it all: An enjoyable shopping experience with one of a kind products, a fun event which brings Neenah together, and a positive impact for underprivileged students and families.

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