FLINTVILLE — The rummage sale at SS. Edward and Isidore Church has annually raised thousands of dollars since it started in 1978, but for organizers, committee chairs and volunteers, past and present, the success of the event isn’t measured in money. The personal relationships bring people back year after year.
“We would like to raise as much money as we can, but it’s really about building a sense of community,” said Judy McNeill, who, among her duties, serves as the chair of the holiday room. “It also helps people clean out their houses so it doesn’t all go to the landfill and helps people purchase items at a reasonable price.”
Most clothing items are 50 cents and jeans are sold for $2. This year’s sale will be held from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 7. The sale will close at 11:30 a.m. and reopen at noon for a two-hour fill-a-bag sale. Bag prices are $3 each or three for $7. Many higher priced items are sold at a 50 percent discount to close the sale.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the first sale, which began when Anne Foley pitched the idea to the Altar Rosary Society.
“I had been to other (church) rummage sales and had an interest in it, so I figured that other young families may also be interested,” said Foley. “I got two other young moms involved and we chaired it the first year. We actually had it two days.”
The Altar Rosary Society has continued to be the driving force behind the sale. It has expanded to include many parish volunteers, including members of the Knights of Columbus who pick up large items by trailer and perform other tasks. Proceeds from the rummage sale support altar needs, including the bread, wine, candles and linens. The remaining funds raised are designated for projects. Money raised at the 2018 sale will be used to upgrade parish kitchen cabinets.
Foley was joined by Barb Athey and Donna Holewinski as chairs in year two. She continued through 1981 until going back to work full-time as a teacher. Athey and Holewinski continued to lead the sale until they both stepped down after 23 years of service.
“We worked well together,” said Athey, a member of SS. Edward and Isidore Parish since 1964. “We had these golden oldies who were there year after year. We fit together like a pair of gloves. One of the neat things is I would carry around an envelope. You could donate a quarter and write your name down and the amount you thought we would make at the sale. You couldn’t go over. The winner would get maybe $13. It was just a fun thing.”
The anniversary spurs reflection on years past, including when a bake sale was part of the event. Athey recalls the homemade donuts made by Isabel Brusky and the bread and pies baked by Catherine Niespodzany. Alice Ignatowski was known for her breads, sticky buns and angel food cakes.
Shirley Havlik not only helped with the bake sale, but also handled advertising in the early years.
Dessert items may now be purchased as part of the lunch menu at the sale, which also includes sloppy joes, hot dogs, chips and beverages.
Much of the community building happens during preparation. Item collection, sorting and setup begin on Wednesday and continue through Friday. Volunteers put in 12-hour days on Wednesday and Thursday. It’s a labor of love for many, including Denise Arnoldi, who serves as chairperson of the antique area.
“I take vacation every year — Wednesday, Thursday and Friday — to be here,” she said. “It’s just what I do. It’s my one thing for the church. I really like it. You meet new people. That’s the fun thing.”
Making sure only quality items are sold and organizing items are keys to the sale’s success, said Gerrie Schrader, a member of the steering committee. Rummage items fill two halls and three classrooms. Jewelry, toys, electronics and household items are among the special merchandise areas. In addition to antiques, there are separate rooms for books and holiday items.
Preparation begins even earlier for Julie Button, who makes sure that volunteers are fed. She takes vacation the entire week to finish shopping on Monday and to begin cooking on Tuesday. Parish members donate food for the meals.
“We have a fabulous community here,” she said. “I ask for specific things. I get soups, salads and desserts. For those who don’t have time, I have a grocery list of specific things they can buy and drop off. There are a number of people who appreciate that because they want to help.”
Button added that on Thursday, 70 to 80 volunteers will be fed at lunch. Volunteers pray together daily and before meals. Parish members of all ages volunteer. Sally Kubiak, a member of the steering committee, said that a number of students give their time, including confirmation candidates.
Community building also includes welcoming people from outside the parish. Some shoppers travel long distances to attend the sale. A group from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is among the regulars. Marleen Rodaer, who was on the leadership team for 16 years, beginning in 2001, recalled a donor she met.
“A gentleman came in and said, ‘I hope you can use this stuff. My wife passed away and my daughters told me that I have to redecorate my house. It’s not my wife’s house anymore.’ You couldn’t believe the most beautiful floral decorations he gave us,” she said. “He was the nicest gentleman. He came three times with loads.”
“People will stop in the antiques (room) and tell us about items on display,” said Arnoldi. “They will share that it was their mother’s and where it came from. They are proud to know that it is there and happy to donate it.”
The sale also serves as a form of outreach for the parish. Athey explained that in the early years, members of Peace Lutheran Church in Kunesh would take items at the end of the sale.
“They would take sweaters,” she said. “They would take them apart, put them into balls and make hats, mittens and more sweaters.”
Items are pulled for mission groups and other projects. For example, Athey needs flannel to line bibs she sews and donates. Remaining items at the end of the sale are donated to St. Vincent de Paul.
“It stops at 2 p.m. and at 3:30 p.m. you would never know that we had a rummage sale,” said Rodaer in reference to the swift cleanup.
“We are in church most years for 4 p.m. Mass,” said Schrader.
Last year’s sale netted approximately $8,000. The total has topped $12,000 in other years. The rummage sale will continue to be a tradition with new people becoming involved. Becky Volkman is the new chairperson this year.
“When they asked me to be the chair, they said, ‘It kind of runs itself. You just need to make sure things are moving.’ It really does,” said Volkman. “Everyone has done this so long and has it covered. Everything works. It comes together.”