For years I have wished that Barrie had its own Ten Thousand Villages store. Run completely by volunteers, it showcases the creative work of people in developing countries and sells their products at fair market value with most of the money going back to them.

Barrie's downtown has always seemed ripe for such a store, a store which embraces not only the richness of individual creativity, but also rewards its artists by giving them a sense of community and recognition for their work.

Well, it's not Ten Thousand Villages, but it has opened and what it offers will have an enormous local benefit.

When The Camphill Store opened at 123 Dunlop St E in December, it was the culmination of a decades long wish of Diane and Chuck Kyd, retired ceos of Camphill. (Just for the record, and for those of you who don't know, Camphill Communities exist to provide living and work assistance to those impaired psychologically, physically, developmentally. They have an urban campus in Barrie and a rural campus south of Angus and they've been in this community for more than a quarter-century.)

Operated completely by volunteers, the new store is the showcase of local effort, of companions of Camphill and creative supporters of the community. In a nutshell, its shelves are full of the work of Camphill Companions and contributing artists like Sebastian Vasoff (photographer), Val Losell (art cards and paintings) and Kathi Young (felt sculptures) and many more. The Joyous Light candles come from a convent in Richmond Hill. Whimsical wood sculptures come from a 92 year old man who has found incredible art in tree bark. Honestly.

From the Camphill looms come weaving such as ipad cases, and scarves as well as fabric art. Pottery and paintings ... there is so much coming from Camphill folks themselves.

L'Arche artists products are also included in this project. L'Arche participants are people with cognitive disabilities and their work is incredible.

The Camphill Store is a place where each purchase gives at least twice. As the shelves fill and buyers find this mecca of local talent, Diane says the Camphill artists' excitement builds. \"First, they are excited to see their work displayed on the shelves. And then, when it sells... well!"

This past Christmas buying season saw a busy, busy place and Diane says staff was thrilled with each days sales totals as the shelves emptied. Now, with the heavy buying season moving into more steady sales, The Camphill Store will be able to expand its lines. Diane says they've reached out to Community Living clients who make the most successful dog biscuits. A test run of the biscuits proved the store can handle many more.

"We're finding artists that nobody knows about," she says. "The creativity in this circle of people is incredible. Artists who have thought about doing their art for sale are now able to do so and they are upping the quality of their work because of the store." They have plans for Open Studios (workshops) in felting, watercolours, and transparencies.

The store takes a 70/30 split with 70% going to the artists in most cases.

And just like Ten Thousand Villages, The Camphill Store is run completely by volunteers.

Diane says the welcome they've received from other businesses on this particular block of downtown, plus the businesses on Lakeshore Mews, has been remarkable. "We've had an overall feeling of belonging. The stores around us have been incedibly supportive as we do business with each other."

None of this would have been possible without startup funding from The Rotary Club of Barrie Huronia and Central House Foundation Barrie. These organizations have helped with startup rent and equipment so The Camphill Store could become reality.

And so... we have our own community circle of creativity, right here, on Dunlop St.

Thanks, Camphill!

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