HARRELLS — With a green shopping bag in her hand, Cindy Dail browsed through inspirational art paintings designed by Hope Smith. It was one of many stops inside Harrells Christian Academy’s Foundation Center.
“So far, I’ve seen a lot of pretty things, but what I’m doing is just walking through,” Dail said with a smile, next to the Art of Hope exhibit. “I’m going to walk through again and then I’m going to purchase. I’ve seen so many things, it’s overwhelming.”
Dail was one of many shoppers who enjoyed a Friday preview Candy Cane Lane at the school. Funds will benefit the school’s annual fund, which enriches the curriculum at the faith-based institution. In the process of doing some early Christmas shopping, Dail was able to help out her alma mater in the process.
“It’s in the family,” Dail said about other family members attending the school. “I graduated in 1975 and they just keep adding buildings. It’s a big improvement. Harrells is a good school and I’ll support it as long as it’s here.”
Clinton resident Debbie Sessoms shopped for items such as pecans and holiday decorations.
“I just like the variety,” Sessoms said about shopping. “The schools need to have more support.”
Parent and PTA President Eva Thornton was one of many people who helped make the two-day shopping market a success. About 50 vendors were available to sell products to shoppers, near and far.
“We have a great combination of vendors and holiday gifts,” Thornton said.
Monkee’s, a returning vendor, sold women’s clothing during the market. Founder DeDe Shaw said this year’s event was a little larger than last year.
“A lot of people like to support their local vendors which is really nice,” Shaw said.
Pat Houle of South End Outfitters in Topsail Beach said the turnout was fantastic during the preview party, which lasted for about four hours.
“We’ve been here for only an hour and it’s fantastic,” Houle said Friday. “I love the way everything looks. This is our first year doing this this and it’s fantastic.”
Some of the other highlights included a visit with author Judith Kunst, painter Jerry Carter and breakfast with Santa. Now, in its second year, the event is a take on a very old tradition at Harrells Christian Academy, known as the bazaar.
“Harrells has always been known for its holiday bazaar,” Thornton said about people picking up handmade goodies and other unique gifts. “We have combined a shopping market today with a bygone tradition at Harrells Christian Academy.”
PTO Vice President Mandy DuBose said the amount of vendor doubled from last year. The entrepreneurs kept 100 percent of their profits and the school made money from ticket sales and booth rentals, the bake shop and from Harrells Christian Academy apparel.
“It’s a complete blessing, there’s no other way to describe it,” DuBose said about the proceeds, which are helping the Christian school in Harrells.
PTO secretary Stacey Hardison felt the same way.
“The best thing about our event is that Christ is in the center of it,” Hardison said. “We start everything that we do with prayer and we make sure that we keep our focus on the Christian faith that we all have. We can tie in the shopping of the season, also with the spiritual faith-based part of the holiday season, which means so much to us as a Christian organization.”
Hardison said the school is gracious for the participants, especially the shoppers who paid admission for the event.
“Without the shoppers, we can have the best event in the world and it wouldn’t matter,” Hardison said.
Thornton said the school is working on a professional development grant, which will be awarded to a staff member. Through fundraising efforts, the academy is working on merit- and need-based scholarships for needy students, who would like to attend the school.
The recent event was the first Candy Cane Lane for Headmaster Kevin Kunst.
“I like the holidays, I always have my whole life,” Kunst said. “It’s a great time to reflect. Thanksgiving set it’s off the right way as a way to give thanks for the opportunities that we have and all the time we’re able to spend serving other people. I like this season, because it’s a season where we can really reflect and be grateful for what we have.”
He said the preview party went well and said the PTO is incredible supporters of the school.
“An event like this helps support all of those efforts that they do,” Kunst said. “We’re a private school and we have a tuition, but even our tuition doesn’t cover the cost of what it takes to educate a child. We always want to grow and provide the best technology and the best teachers.”
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.