Chelsea-area Women Power Major Fundraising For Local Non Profit
For the last decade and a half, a mighty group of local women–aptly dubbed The Material Girls–has used their artistic talents, organizational skills, and formidable business acumen to raise much-needed funds for local charities. From February to October, the group meets monthly to produce inventory for a series of holiday sales, all scheduled in December. Proceeds from these events are donated to Faith in Action with last year’s activities netting a total of $17,000.
According to long-time member Kelly Stoker, the group is the brainchild of current Chelsea Mayor Jane Pacheco and Allison Vanderspool. Pacheco and Vanderspool wanted to offer “inexpensive, but local and sustainable and nice items for children to buy at Christmas for their families,” following the closure of a company that had previously offered the service at Chelsea’s North Creek Elementary School.
Supporting that idea, Stoker developed some affordable crafts that local moms could make to sell at their events and Pacheco’s and Vanderspool’s idea took off. Following member Barbara Brown’s push to open membership beyond moms, the group is now 130 members strong and is led by a 15-person leadership team.
One member of the group’s leadership team, Kristy Fetyko, has also created a companion group made up of members from the Chelsea Retirement assisted-living community called, “Material Girls Sisters.” The companion group’s most experienced member is 103 years old and according to Stoker, “They contribute their projects to the Material Girl bazaars and love being part of the larger group and knowing that they are making a difference.”
Each monthly meeting draws between 60-75 members where they work on 9-10 different crafts. Stoker says that the group is mindful of waste and aims to avoid sending anything to a landfill, preferring to “up-cycle” as much as possible. “We make a large array of crafts for women, men, children, babies and pets. We make decorative and usable items like pillows, aprons, toys, jewelry, sports decor, pretty much anything we can think of. This year we made over 200 different crafts and over 3,000 items.”
The group has expanded beyond craft sales, too. They organize an annual drive for feminine hygiene products, provide stuffed Christmas stockings to students who have aged out of the foster care system, organized a card campaign for people at the St. Louis Center, Silver Maples, and Meals on Wheels recipients who were isolated during COVID, and made thousands of masks for firefighters, police officers, schools and other organizations. They’ve also supported other projects for Safe House, Chelsea First United Methodist Church, Cass Community in Detroit, and Meals on Wheels.
In 2023, the group held four bazaars including one created just for shoppers with special needs, one just for children shoppers, one open to the whole community, and one specifically for existing Faith in Action clients. When asked if the group has any plans for further expansion, Stoker replied, “Our mission is our membership and the Christmas Bazaars. I don’t think we can manage much else.”
For those interested in supporting The Material Girls’ efforts, the group can always use two things: donations and volunteers. The events are run entirely by volunteers with their busiest event using more than 150 volunteers! “Over 75 Chelsea teenagers volunteer as Youth Buddies on Saturday. They take the child shoppers to the “Store” and help them shop for and wrap their gifts,” said Stoker.
Stoker said the majority of donations they receive are from their own members or people in the community, “We accept good usable items like fabric, ribbon, vases, wreath frames, frames, Christmas mugs, pretty much any nice craft supplies.” They have also been lucky enough to receive the “leftovers” from a local Joanne’s Fabric store saying, “We were able to make tons of crafts from those items. We would love to have a partnership with a craft store like Joanns or Michaels.”
Said Stoker, “Our membership is the best group of women anywhere. They are kind, creative, generous, and amazingly fun. It is so much fun each month to sit and chat and work together. The bazaars started as our mission, but honestly our membership is our biggest success and joy.” The group meets on the second Tuesday of each month at the Chelsea First United Methodist Church and all women 16 years of age and older are welcome to join.