If home is where the heart is, then the heart of any great community lies within the people who call it home. And this holds especially true for the dedicated crew of volunteers working diligently behind the scenes to put together Knox United Church’s annual spring thrift sale. On site at the Fellowship Centre are dozens of longstanding members of the congregation along with several industrious young people, including the local Cub Scout troop who have been using the church space for their meetings. Even the Minister, Reverend Liz Bowyer along with Sharon Copeman, are pitching in and wearing different hats (literally speaking…while I was there I saw Reverend Bowyer have fun trying on at least two different red hats).
In a matter of a few hours everyone was able to transform a rather dull looking auditorium into vibrant market place filled with an eclectic selection of furniture, collectibles, china, toys, books, clothing, accessories, and everyday household items donated by the congregation and surrounding community. By Friday evening, they will be ready to open their doors to the public from 5pm to 8pm and then again Saturday from 9am to 12noon.
Nestled on a pretty side street in Kerrisdale in Vancouver, Knox United has a long history of being an important part of the community and the thrift sales have been an integral part of that process as far back as people can remember. “I have been a member of Knox United for over 30 years and as far as I know, the sales were going on long before I arrived,” says Tacye MacLagan. For the past 20 years she had been the thrift sale coordinator and recently passed the torch over to Susan McAlpine. Together they thought that the thrift sales may have been going on since the early 1950s.
Although there is a lot of work that goes into organizing the thrift sales each spring and fall, proceeds from these events are crucial to supporting various church programs. According to McAlpine “money raised from the thrift sales goes directly into the operations budget and helps to support much needed community-based programs such as the Syrian Project, Community Lunch Program for those in need, and the Healing Touch program.”
McAlpine seems to have the set up process well in hand, but is grateful that MacLagan (who recently moved away to the Island) has come back to help with this rather daunting task. “We have been collecting donations since the third week of February” says McAlpine. “In the past we have rented storage bins but this year we were able to build a storage unit on site in the Fellowship Centre’s auditorium and this has made the process of unpacking and setting up so much easier.” She opens the storage unit and lets me take a peak in. It is filled to the rafters, people have been generous. Despite how much stuff is there, I did spot a lovely wicker love seat and chair.
They have quite the task ahead of them, but cheerfully the volunteers start streaming in and grab what they can to take back to the appropriate section. Not only are they setting up in the auditorium, there are at least three other rooms being commandeered for the sale.
A particular favourite for local dealers is the “boutique” which is set up in the preschool space. Here is where you can find some of the more collectible and higher end items such as china, vintage jewellery, serving platters, dolls, and art. Already set aside for this sale is a 32 piece set of Royal Albert Old Country Roses dinnerware, sterling silver souvenir spoons, and a nice pair of silver plated serving utensils. Having been to the sale on many occasions, I would never have guessed what this room looks like before the sale.
Another popular space for many coming to the sale is the room set up for all the toys and games. The Cub Scout troop seems to be having fun stocking this space. Several sparkly party hats have been found and now worn. One of the Cub Scouts, wearing one of the more interesting hats, takes time to point out that there is a PlayStation 2 on one of the tables. McAlpine’s daughter Sarah is also busy helping to organize this room, which so far has quite the selection of board games, dolls, and various toys for all ages.
In a smaller room around the corner is where all the books will be for sale. At the moment they are all stored in boxes waiting for their turn to come out and be set up. One by one each book will be meticulously placed in its specific section, making whatever you are looking for easy to find.
The auditorium is by far the biggest room and will feature housewares (vintage and contemporary), furniture, tools, clothing and accessories, luggage, linen, and even a beautiful 1950s grandfather clock. There will also be a small section set up with plants for sale and master gardeners on site to answer questions. Here is just some of what you can expect to find.
All of this is somewhat bittersweet as this may be the last year of the thrift sale. The church has had to make the difficult decision to sell the land where the Fellowship Centre building sits. The decision was not made lightly and has stirred some controversy in the area. However, the sale will allow them to continue their work in the community. They will be building another smaller meeting space for the preschool in behind the actual Church, but are unsure if and where they will be able to continue to host the sales in the future.
Personally I hope that they will find a way to continue as I look forward to their sales every spring and fall. Everything is always well organized and quite reasonably priced…and the volunteers are gracious and fun…each time evoking a true sense of community.
Knox United Church
5600 Balaclava St @ 41st Avenue
Friday April 22, 2016 5pm to 8pm
Saturday April 23, 2016 9am to 12noon
**Lots of free street parking in the area and they will have the BBQ set up selling hotdogs and hamburgers both days.