China Cross walked down an aisle at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, beaming shyly as those in the audience snapped photos with cellphone cameras.
The 16-year-old rising sophomore at Westminster High School was one of 11 volunteers at the Fair Fall Fashion Show who modeled fashions from Serrv, a nonprofit that aims to eradicate poverty by providing opportunity and support to artisans and farmers around the world by paying them fair wages.
The nonprofit has a store inside the Brethren Service Center, which houses various nonprofit organizations as well as the Zigler Hospitality Center, which offers banquet hall rentals, hotel-style lodging, dining services, and a place for business and family gatherings.
"I thought it would be a nice thing to do to just step out of my comfort zone," Cross said before showing off her outfit.
She modeled a black wrap dress and cuff by Mata Traders; and a kilim scarf by Asha Handicrafts of India, inspired by the designs of traditional Pakistani rugs called kilims. Each model wore clothing made by artisans in developing countries such as India, Peru, Ecuador, Cambodia, Bangladesh and Nepal, said Sarah Gschleidle, manager of the Servv store.
Artisans are paid up front and are given a wage calculator that they use to determine how much they want to be paid for an item, Gschleidle said.
The fashion show was part of a daylong event on Saturday hosted by the Zigler Hospitality Center and other nonprofit agencies on the campus, including Brethren Disaster Ministries, Children's Disaster Services, Serrv, Material Resources Warehouse, IMA World Health and On Earth Peace. Information booths were set up from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The fashion show began at 1 p.m.
Although a portion of the Brethren Service Center went up for sale last month, Mary Ann Grossnickle, manager of the Zigler Hospitality Center, said the fashion show was held to let the community know the Zigler center and other nonprofits located on the church campus are still open.
"There is a sign outside that says we're for sale and people automatically think everything closed," Grossnickle said. "Nothing's closing — we're still here, we're still going strong."
Terry Goodger, an employee at Material Resources, a warehouse that ships goods for the nonprofits at the Brethren Service Center — even during times of crisis in the areas they serve — organized the fashion show along with Gschleidle and Grossnickle. Goodger said that although she has never participated in a fashion show before, she did some modeling as a child.
"I think it's important to get the word out about what all happens here, and I think this is a great thing that they're doing," said Goodger, a Westminster resident. "It's nice to make the community aware to help support it."
That is why she asked her daughter, Jeni Anderman, to volunteer for the show; Anderman modeled a knit top and a drawstring skirt by Marketplace: Handwork of India, and a Layered Delhi Necklace by Asha Handcrafts.
Although Anderman described herself as a "T-shirt and jeans type of person," she said she liked the outfit she was wearing.
"As long as I don't trip, I'm good," Anderman joked before the show began.
Donna Lehigh, a longtime Brethren Service Center volunteer who lives in Union Bridge, donned an outfit made by "Shona Kurta from Marketplace: Handwork of India, a nonprofit organization working to empower women in the poor areas of Mumbai through the sales of their hand-printed and embroidered textiles," said John Laudermilch, of the Union Bridge Lions Club, who served as emcee for the event.