Batesville Herald Tribune, Batesville, Indiana

June 1, 2012

Church rummage sales dot the area map

Debbie Blank
The Herald-Tribune

BATESVILLE — With this great weather comes a wave of annual church rummage sales.

Tied for longevity at about 25 years each are the St. Louis Rummage Sale and Holy Family Super Rummage Sale.  The St. John’s United Church of Christ School-house Rummage Sale began 11 years old. The Batesville Vineyard Community Church Free Yard Sale is about a decade old.

The St. Mark’s Lutheran Church  sale, unlike the others, takes place twice a year in spring and fall, but dates for the next haven’t been set yet.

This is the first year for the Batesville Christian Church Benefit Yard Sale. Members are raising money to send Ross and Megan Najmon, Italy for Christ missionaries, to that country in the fall. After learning the language, they will start churches and also family counseling and soccer ministries, explains sale coordinator Kathy Najmon.

Proceeds at other churches are used for a variety of purposes. The St. Louis sale “benefits all of the students at St. Louis School through funding the PTO projects,” reports coordinator Jane Smith. Holy Family’s profits help fund the church’s  religious education program. St. John’s take is used “to keep the schoolhouse building going,” according to organizer Jenell Schroeder. Members have refinished its wood floor, painted the interior and installed new lights and windows.

Batesville Vineyard’s  blowout has a twist – “Everything is totally free,” says the Rev. Jeremy Smith, so the church gains no dollars.

Members’ goals are more altruistic. “We give away to show our community God's love in a creative, practical way – to let people know that God sees them, values them, loves them.  We serve because our Savior set the example by loving through action, not just word.  We love the community and want folks to know that. Plus it's really fun!”

While most sales take place at the churches, three are nearby.  The St. Louis Rummage Sale moved a year ago from its school’s steamy gym and cafeteria to the air-conditioned activity center. St. John’s is located at its schoolhouse, formerly a Batesville school, on Columbus Avenue just west of Batesville Intermediate School. Holy Family’s event is located in its former school.

Contributions to sell come from not just church members, but the public. Jeremy Smith notes, “We like to tell people only to donate something that they would like to get themselves. No junk, please.”

Schroeder says, “If we get something that’s bad, we don’t even put it out.” Items with missing buttons, rips and stains go in a free box.

“What makes our sale unique is we sort everything,” says Pam Scheele, who co-chairs  the Holy Family Super Rummage Sale with Dottie Hoff. “It’s like walking into a department store. The clothing is sized. All the jeans and denim are measured. Upstairs we try to have some controlled chaos,” with separate rooms for books, curtains and other stuff.

“We start collecting in November,” then sort and place items in the right rooms. “We really don’t put out anything that’s trash.” She recalls opening bags to find a dead mouse, used jockstrap and other questionable donations.  “We have a lot of dumpsters.”

What’s most popular with shoppers? St. John’s does “pretty good with exercise equipment, any kind of household stuff, appliances, furniture and pictures in frames. We get brand new comforter sets that they’ve never used, sheets and pillowcases still in their packages.”

At St. Louis, furniture, antiques and children's clothing and toys are gone first. Home school materials, household goods, purses and bicycles are being sold at Batesville Christian Church.

Other items are rejected by most. At Holy Family, vases linger and bowling balls have been banned “after one rolled off the table and almost hit somebody,” Scheele recalls.

In this Internet age, encyclopedia sets get left behind at St. Louis. Old TVs (“you know, the kind that double as furniture”) can’t even be given away at Batesville Vineyard.

Unusual items have traded hands. At St. Louis, “we had a car donated to us that we sold through the rummage sale.” No one could identify the purpose of “a visor for sunglasses, but yet it wasn’t ... On Saturday when we had our $1 bag day, it was gone,” according to Schroeder. The Batesville Vineyard minister recalls getting a small collection of ancient computer monitors and a nice table saw.

Leftovers end up in a variety of spots. St. John’s volunteers have given towels to animal shelters. “We give some stuff to nursing homes,” such as lift chairs and knickknacks for bingo prizes.  Books and videos get carted to the library.

Holy Family has a deal with Chapel Missionary Baptist Church of Metamora. “They come and take everything and have a free giveaway at the end of summer. They are so grateful.”

A Hill-Rom truck transports St. Louis’ unsold items to St. Vincent de Paul, a Cincinnati Catholic charity. Batesville Vineyard’s remainders go to Goodwill.

In addition to letting cash-strapped residents buy cheap stuff or grab it for free, the sales have benefitted those who need help the most.

Last year St. John’s volunteers learned of a previously homeless family living nearby. “They had nothing,” Schroeder remembers. “We gave them a rocking chair, lamps, a couch, bathroom rugs, towels and cooking utensils ... before the sale ever started.”

A few years ago, a pregnant woman whose husband was just laid off longingly looked at sale items she could not afford. Schroeder learned of her situation and discreetly gave her a bassinet, baby clothes and diapers. The sale coordinator ran into the mother and baby later and the woman said, “‘I’ll never forget you people.’ That really makes it worthwhile.”