Unsung Heroes: Church Garage Sales


One of the interesting developments in our society is the phenomena of garage sales. When I was a youngster the only used items that were purchased were “Antiques”.

Garage sales are held and frequented by an array of interesting people who often find bargains while pursuing the wide variety of goods offered by the owners. Among the more interesting garage sales are the Church garage sales held throughout the year.

Have you ever noticed the line ups in front of churches whenever they are holding a garage sale? People start lining up sometimes up to an hour before the doors open no matter the weather. I decided it would be interesting to find out how a Church garage sale is arranged and meet the organizers.

Daphne Poirier the office manager at Willowgrove United Church advised me to contact Shirley McCarthy and Mary Ann Goold who are the principal organizers of their Church garage sale. In addition to their volunteer work at the annual garage sale they also organize a free clothing exchange twice annually.

Shirley, a retired elementary school teacher, is a Sault Ste Marie native with 3 children and 6 grandchildren. Mary Ann, a retired nurse,originally from Walkerton On, a Sault resident since ’68, has 3 children, and 2 grandchildren. Both Shirley and Mary Ann are Willowgrove church members as well as members of the United Church Women (UCW) with Shirley currently holding the Presidents position.

In addition to the garage sale activity they also participate in the Mission and Service and Outreach Committee which among other benefits to society also sponsors refugees. Willowgrove United Church and Algoma Presbytery recently received an award for their refugee sponsorship.

When their annual garage sale takes place they recruit volunteers from the church to assist in segregating all the goods donated for the sale. From Thursday until Saturday hundreds of boxes and miscellaneous items are delivered to the church. Shirley and Mary Ann have to direct the volunteers in the distribution of all the items to various tables set up for the sale. Then an appropriate price for each item is determined usually one or more of the volunteers assisting in the sale.

When the hectic sale finishes on Saturday at noon all the remaining goods are packed and donated to the Kidney Foundation. The proceeds from the garage sale are distributed to the church and local charities.

During my meeting with them I discovered a common theme about their approach to garage sales. They have an opportunity to meet with many different people with divergent backgrounds. Most of the volunteers working at the garage sale have the same outlook on life.

Both Shirley and Mary Ann believe they lead a better life when thinking about helping other people.