SOMERS POINT — Greate Bay Country Club will open Friday morning for the 71st annual Charity League Christmas Mart. The theme is "Christmas Wonderland," and there will be more than 25 vendors selling gifts, jewelry, art, accessories and other items alongside league members who will be offering their trademark homemade breads, cakes and holiday decorations.
While the annual Christmas Mart runs for two days, members prepare for a year.
An opening day tradition is the big reveal of the sequined Charity League pins made by members all year long and sold at the mart. There is a different design every year.
Prior to the Christmas Mart, the design is known only to the league members and friends sworn to secrecy who have created the more than 6,000 handmade holiday pins. The pins routinely sell out, and many who arrive at the mart will be sporting one or more of the previous years' pins.
Mary Lou Adams of Margate, who has been stationed at the pin table each year as guests arrive to pick up their orders, said the pins are a piece of history with a bit of nostalgia.
The pins are made of sequins and beads hand-sewn onto a flannel base in a precise order so that all the pins are uniform. Each takes about two hours to make.
The customers line up on the first day to pick up pins they have preordered without ever seeing the design. The pins are $25 each, and the money they raise support women and children in the community through charities selected by the league, which include the Atlantic City Day Nursery, Child Federation, The Donny Fund, Covenant House and The Women’s Center.
In 2016 League members were able to donate more than $145,000 to the local charities.
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But the volunteers do not stop after the pins are sewn; they have Christmas stockings, tree skirts and ornaments to make; others bake stacks of specialty breads, cakes and cookies for the gourmet corner. Longtime member Joanne Kisby of Linwood guides the production of breads such as lemon tea, chocolate sour cream and pumpkin nut that keep customers coming back every year, and several members join their efforts to make dozens of tins filled with cookies.
Christmas Mart hours are 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 17 and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 18 at Greate Bay Country Club, 901 Mays Landing Road in Somers Point. The club's Park Room and the Pub and Grill will be open for lunch and dinner. Santa Claus will be there for kids to visit and for photos.
For information visit Charity League of Atlantic County on Facebook or see charityleagueac.com.