Abolish Poverty, End Suffering
By Debra Donohue
Congregational Outreach Specialist
The Chilliwack Garage Sale is the perfect example of an event that is a success even if no church members show up to purchase anything. Chilliwack members run the event, but most of the purchasing is done by their community. Every penny of the money raised goes to charity. This year 50% was donated to World Accord, 25% to Samish Island Campground, and 25% to Chilliwack Supportive Housing.
While I was at the fall garage sale a few weeks ago, I wondered when this had started and who’s brain child it was. That started me on an information gathering mission that I’m going to share with you.
Marie Christensen told me that back in the 70’s the women’s group always held a fall Tea and White Elephant sale. In the early 80’s, (it’s the closest anyone can remember to an actual date), Vic Suddaby brought Executive Director, Terry Fielder, to Chilliwack to talk about Canadian Saints Outreach, this was before World Accord came into being, and it inspired the ladies and the congregation to expand their tea to a garage sale, and that’s how it all began. Shonnet Allen and Janine McCully said that originally the garage sale was held once a year for two consecutive Saturdays, but they started receiving so many donations the congregation decided to hold two 2-day garage sales each year, one in the spring and one in the fall.
Barb Robbins and Joan Welch have always run the kitchen and lunch has always been available at the garage sale. It started as a cheap and convenient way to feed themselves and has evolved to a kitchen with 3 or 4 staff per day serving up coffee, tea, assorted homemade goodies, hot dogs with fried onions, ham and cheese sandwiches, and my personal favourite, egg salad sandwiches.
About 8 years ago the congregation purchased a 53-foot trailer to store the donations. It seems they were tired of losing half of their activity hall as a storage facility.
It takes countless volunteer hours and days to manage the garage sales, from meeting people at the church to collect donations, Janine McCully, Fred Robbins, and Keith Campbell do this, then setting up tables, unpacking the donations, sorting, and pricing everything. An average sale day will have 15-20 members on hand to help.
When I go to the garage sale, I try to get out to help with customers, fill in the blank spots on the tables and do whatever they need me to do, but lately they just tell me to shop. Maybe it’s because in the last couple years I’ve purchased a large triple drawer, triple wide filing cabinet, 5 vases, games, and lots more. Plus, I always go home with a plate full of homemade desserts for my partner. Hey, I’m just trying to be supportive!
Joan Welch started keeping a record of the proceeds back in 2012. Since then, the congregation has raised over $42,000.00. That’s just the proceeds from 5 of the last 40 odd years, an average of $7000 per year. Joan says with results like this, it’s not likely they’ll drop the Chilliwack Garage Sale anytime soon.
Amen to that!
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355 Elmira Road North, Unit 129
Guelph, ON N1K 1S5 Canada
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