BY RACHEL HALDER
Martha Keim may have retired as a manager at the Ten Thousand Villages store in downtown Goshen, but she’s not ready to stay home.
“It’s one of the best organizations to work for,” said Keim, who continues to serve as a store volunteer.
Born in Middlebury, Martha Keim has had a life full of adventure, in addition to working at Ten Thousand Villages for over 23 years.
Keim started out with a career in bookkeeping. She worked at three different businesses—a bottle gas company, propane company and Ford sales business—before entering into the world of fair trade through Ten Thousand Villages.
As a child, she attended a small country school with all eight grades in one room and then traveled to Middlebury for high school. She has been a member of the same church, Forks Mennonite, her entire life.
Keim also grew up with an understanding of what Mennonite Central Committee, or MCC, was all about.
“We really learned a lot about MCC, even when we were growing up,” explained Keim. Orie O. Miller, one of the first three MCC workers, grew up with Keim at Forks Mennonite.
In the 70’s Keim’s sister, Ruth, worked in Palestine for three years through MCC. “When she finished her term I flew over and we toured Europe for three months,” explained Keim.
“We camped the whole time we were in Europe with another guy who worked with my sister in Palestine and his friend,” Keim said. “Ruth and I would always fix the meals, and the men were supposed to be responsible for setting the tents up and taking them down.”
The three-month-long trip concluded with a ship ride across the Atlantic Ocean back to the United States.
This two-week journey included a lot of time spent walking around the ship. “We were walking one evening, for exercise, and a young man came towards us and said, ‘Are you ladies Mennonite?’” said Ruth. “We were shocked and said, ‘Why yes, how did you know?’”
Keim said he replied, “I can tell by the way you walk. You walk like you have a purpose.”
With a purpose in mind, the Keim sisters also signed up for a joint two-year voluntary service term, from 1987-1989, with MCC in Akron, Pa. Martha worked at a Ten Thousand Villages’ warehouse while Ruth worked in the Akron retail store.
After their term ended, the sisters came back to Goshen and in 1990 were asked to become managers at the Ten Thousand Villages store located at Peddler’s Village. A fire at Peddler’s Village badly damaged the complex, so Ten Thousand Villages was moved to downtown Goshen. Martha and Ruth opened the downtown location in October 1991 and managed through December 1992.
“When we decided we wanted to quit being the managers, we just started working as volunteers in the store,” explained Keim.
Keim hasn’t only had Ten Thousand Villages experiences in Goshen and Akron, though. For two different summers, the sisters worked at a store in Montreat, N.C.
“The store in Montreat was really neat because it was a Presbyterian Retreat Center, so you would have some sort of conference there every two weeks,” Keim said. Through this experience Keim was able to interact with a broader range of people and denominations than what was possible in Goshen or Akron.
Overall, Keim has enjoyed her variety of Ten Thousand Villages positions. In the warehouse she experienced the business side—entering and processing orders sent in by stores and then processing the invoices.
At the Goshen store, Keim was not only involved in the business aspect, but also the managerial aspects. “At Peddler’s Village you had to write down everything you sold by hand,” said Keim. “It was nice when everything changed over to computer.”
Now as a volunteer at the downtown Goshen Ten Thousand Villages store, Keim has been able to have a different experience—“I like it because when I’m volunteering I know you’re also helping out someone else, the person who is making the products.”
And of course Keim enjoys the store’s merchandise as well. “I think we have a lot more products from more countries than what we used to have,” Keim said.
She enjoys the items made from olive wood and onyx the best—“I have an olive wood nativity set and a couple candle holders and paper weight things that are onyx.”
“The products—some of them—are just for beauty, and some are for practical use, but at least you know that it’s not some big corporation making a lot of money,” said Keim. “You’re helping supply income for other people.”