After 34 years, Appleton parish to hold its final rummage sale July 29-Aug. 2

APPLETON — What is billed as “Northeast Wisconsin’s Largest Rummage Sale” will take place one last time July 29 to Aug. 2 at St. Bernadette Church, 2331 Lourdes Drive.

Now in its 34th consecutive year, the St. Bernadette Rummage Sale, which brings in hundreds of people over the five-day event, netted approximately $55,000 last year. Held in the St. Bernadette Center, it fills the entire first floor and lower level, according to Sue Taylor, chair of the parish pastoral council.

In this file photo from 2010, Kim Oscar, left, Ashley Jensen and Karen Jensen are pictured in the “toy department” of St. Bernadette Parish’s rummage sale in Appleton. The rummage sale is marking its 30th anniversary this year. (File photo by Patricia Kasten | The Compass)

“St. Bernadette has decided to discontinue the rummage sale, as we have a new lease beginning Oct. 1, 2020, with The Richardson School, which is part of MyPath Companies,” Taylor told The Compass in an email. “This will be a year-round service offered to the communities within an hour distance.”

According to its website, The Richardson School serves children with autism spectrum disorders, intellectual disabilities, emotional/behavioral disabilities, orthopedic impairments, developmental delays, learning disabilities, traumatic brain injuries and other health impairments.

“The Richardson School approached us last October. We then began to work with our trustees, finance council, pastoral council, building and grounds as well as talking with the rummage sale coordinators to get everyone’s input and approval,” said Taylor. “We also shared with our parishioners via two evenings of open discussion. During this time, we worked with Barb Weiss of the diocesan staff who was extremely helpful.”

The school, which has other facilities in Beloit, Brookfield, Madison and West Allis, signed a three-year lease with the parish, with two five-year options to renew. While the lease begins in October, it will open for students in January 2021.

Taylor offered thanks to all of the parish volunteers who helped make the rummage sale a success for three decades. “It has helped the parish financially, but more importantly built community,” she said. “We are thankful for what it has provided, but we are also grateful that we can partner with The Richardson School in serving the youth of the area.”

While the rummage sale — which features everything from household items and toys to clothing and books — is a tradition, this year’s will be different due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“CDC rules, including limiting the number of shoppers,” will be enforced, said Taylor. “As some come out, new ones can enter. Masks will be required and other health precautions will be in place to keep volunteers and attendees safe.”

Karen Jensen has been coordinator of the rummage sale for 12 years and began volunteering in 1996. “It’s been wonderful. We raised $6,000 when I first started and our best year was $81,000. It almost got too big.”

She said she will miss the relationships made at the rummage sales, but is happy to finally retire.

“I tried to retire a couple of years ago,” she said. “There’s not a lot of people stepping up to take over. … The younger generation is not into ‘thrifting’ as much as us older folks.”

Jensen said she is thrilled that The Richardson School will be moving into the St. Bernadette Center. “It gives me peace of mind. Now that I know on Oct. 1 a school is coming in, I feel like the building will have a good use,” she said.

The pandemic will make the experience of this year’s sale an unknown, she said. For this reason, she decided to sell items such as bikes and outdoor items on Facebook Marketplace. She said several hundred items have already sold, raising more than $4,000 for the parish.