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Issue date: September 20, 2000

Barbara Wood's Dispatches from the Home Front: Rummage sale helps make town a community Barbara Wood's Dispatches from the Home Front: Rummage sale helps make town a community (September 20, 2000)

This Thursday (September 21) is rummage sale time in Woodside -- but not just time for any old rummage sale. This rummage sale is part of the fabric of the community, and part of its history as well. And besides, some of the rummage might, just might, have come from someone rich or famous.

Each May and September, sure as the poison oak turns brilliant red in the fall and the daffodils poke their heads out in early spring, the courtyard, social hall and classrooms at the Woodside Village Church fill up with the community's castoffs.

On sale days customers pack Woodside Road with parked cars and line up for tickets for timed entry to the "Boutique," where the best of the rummage is segregated. Carefully sorted and displayed by a large cadre of volunteers, there are rooms full of books, toys, appliances, shoes and accessories, kitchen goods and men's, women's and children's clothes. The courtyard is filled with furniture, bicycles and other large items. Sometimes it's almost too crowded to move.

There's even food for those who can stop shopping long enough to eat -- coffee and doughnuts in the morning; burgers and salads and root beer floats in the afternoons.

On Thursday of rummage week, the older students from the elementary school cross the street during lunch to buy themselves a hamburger, chips and soda. And, warnings in the school bulletin to the contrary, every year someone drags a sofa or full-sized television console back to class.

On Friday everything is half price -- and at 11 a.m. anything that can be stuffed into a bag goes for $1.

The rummage sale is one of those events that makes Woodside into a community, somewhere where people interact and communicate with and care about each other, instead of just a place to live and store the SUV when it's not in use.

It seems everyone in town is involved in one way or another -- from donating used goods, sometimes the same used goods purchased at the last rummage sale, to volunteering help with the sale or sifting for treasures to purchase. Some do all three -- rummage sale volunteers get to shop before the general public and most can't resist the lure.

More than 80 volunteers participate in each rummage sale, many of them not members of the church.

Part of the reason the rummage sale is such a community institution is the fact that it's been around pretty much forever. Soon after the church was built in 1891, the church women began an annual bazaar. Addie Tripp, whose father was one of Woodside's founders, was involved in the first such sale.

The event has grown and changed over the years, says Dolores Degnan, who has volunteered at the rummage sale since she was a child growing up in Woodside, including 35 years in charge of the Boutique and 15 years in charge of the entire sale. The early bazaars featured an array of home-made crafts and fresh baked goods, with a "white elephant" table of used goods on the side. Over time the used goods took over.

When she was first involved, $1,000 in sales was considered a triumph, Mrs. Degnan says; the last sale brought in $20,000.

"The whole thing's just gotten bigger and bigger," she says. More help is always needed, and many a Woodside newcomer has found the rummage sale just the venue for getting to know some of the town's longtime residents.

Rummage sale profits go to several beneficiaries: a group of charities that the church women choose each year; a church mission project; the upkeep of the church and its social hall, which is widely used by non-church groups; and an endowment for an emergency fund that can be used by any community member in need.

Barbara Wood, an Almanac staff writer, has worked at the Village Church rummage sale for eight years. Look for her column the first and third Wednesday of the month. E-mail her at [email protected]


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