“I think we’re going to start putting smiley face stickers on our car for each $250 we raise,” says Virginnia Vista. She and her sister sell jam and jelly from the back of their van at the far end of the parking lot, and they give the profits to a different charity each year. In 2011 everything goes to Smile Train, an organization that pays for corrective surgery for children with cleft palates.
Virginnia (“That’s Virginnia with two ‘n’s,” she says, explaining that her Swedish father pronounced it “We’re in ya”) and her sister retired to their parental farm between Waseca and Albert Lea about ten years ago. “We’re not the kind to just sit around and not do anything. It drives us crazy,” she said, so they make jams and jellies. A few years ago when they were visiting India during a famine, they decided to give the entire year’s profits to Bibles for the World to help the local residents. “Our profits doubled!” she said. Every year since, the sisters have chosen one charity per year to receive the profits.
In 2010 the beneficiary was KICY, a radio station in Nome, Alaska, broadcasting 1,000 miles into Russia, the only commercial radio station in the United States licensed to broadcast into another country in that country’s native language. Now KICY can continue its mission using the profits from two Minnesota ladies’ jams and jellies.
I choose the apple jelly, perfect on biscuits. Though the jelly tastes not too different from the commercial jelly at the supermarket, the total experience of these ladies’ jelly and knowing that it is helping people in India and Bangladesh and Alaska and Bolivia is more than just filling—it is fulfilling.
You can’t buy that experience at a supermarket.
My story on the Vista sisters is reprinted from my article “Cultivating Connections with Our Local Global Marketplaces,” originally published in July, 2011, in the Twin Cities Runoff literary magazine.