Sale of the season
July 3, 2008 · Updated 12:38 PM
"The super bowl of Whidbey Island garage sales kicks off Saturday morning.But veteran organizers of the Coupeville Lions Club's annual mega-sale suggest showing up to Coupeville Elementary School a little earlier than the 9 a.m. start time.At 9 a.m. we have maybe 300 people lined up behind a rope, Coupeville Lions Club president Bob Clay says. Then we blow a horn and just get out of the way. It's like the Oklahoma Land Rush, says Kathie Denson. On a Saturday morning seven days before the sale, Clay, Denson, and about 10 other Lions are busy carrying, sorting, stacking, testing or pricing thousands of sale items stacked on dozens of tables in the multipurpose room at Coupeville Elementary.There are tables loaded with plates and bowls, cups and glasses. Others are given over to tools ranging from a small phillips-head screwdriver to a gas-powered chain saw. Then there's the furniture section - couches, tables, chairs and book cases; the luggage wall; a camping gear section; not to mention computers, televisions and stereos systems. The used book section is so extensive it requires a room of its own.At 21-years-old, the Lions' garage sale is an established Coupeville tradition and a growing concern. The first sale in 1979 raised about $2,000. Last year, the Lions raised more than $20,000.Ninety-five percent of that profit goes right back to the community in the form of projects the Lions take on in Coupeville, according to Lions president George Hammett.These include rest rooms and lighting for the high school football team; a track for the elementary school; benches around town; tennis courts; rest rooms for Coupeville Town Park; equipment for Lions Sixth Street Park in Coupeville; Rhododendron Park; hospital equipment and Meals On Wheels; children's scholarships and sponsorships for Boy Scout and Sea Scout troops.We take a dollar's worth of of product and turn it into $20 worth of profit through our labor, Hammett says.Labor for the Lions' garage sale is extensive and requires dozens of Lions and their wives and thousands of hours of preparation, he adds.First, a year's accumulation of donations is moved from Lion Freeman Boyer's barn to Coupeville Elementary School in a caravan of trucks and farm trailers.That evolution is followed by days of unloading, sorting, testing and pricing.Moving the stuff takes about 25-30 people two 16-hour days, Hammett says. Then 15 people work for 12 days to get it ready.All together, it takes between 40-50 people, says Bill Bainbridge, a longtime Lion and garage sale veteran.In fact, the entire crew working Saturday are veterans of the sale. And life.With few exceptions, the garage sale workers are well past retirement age, yet they wheel handcarts and tote boxes with dispatch.The average age is about 70-75 years old but they keep coming back to work the garage sale, Hammett says.I enjoy it and I learn something every year, says 83-years-old Rod Randall. Randall and his wife Dorothy are working their 21st sale.Nonie Brayton, 79, is preparing for her 15th sale. Brayton says she likes the idea that her efforts benefit others, like a young, financially strapped couple needing kitchen supplies, or a single working mom in need of cheap furniture.I believe in helping people and that's what we do, she says, nodding to two women who are ripping off pieces of masking tape and pricing plates.Clay, who became president of the Coupeville Lions this year, listens and nods in agreement. All around him elder Lions are in motion, getting ready for the granddaddy of all Whidbey garage sales.The Coupeville Lions have been sponsoring and working on projects in Coupeville since 1937, Clay says. . But then, he adds, the Lions inevitably get something in return for their efforts.It's a chance to give back to the community, he says. But it's also a way to make you feel better by helping other people.-------------------MEGA-GARAGE SALE The granddaddy of Whidbey garage sales is set for Saturday and Sunday, July 1 and 2, in the Coupeville Elementary School Multipurpose Room, the parking lot and beyond from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to around 2:30 p.m. Sunday.The doors open for a preview only (no sales or set-asides allowed) all day Thursday and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday. Donations of items for the sale will still be accepted if they are dropped off at the multipurpose room.For more information , call George Hammett at 678-5693, Bernie Hingston at 675-7035 or Bill Bainbridge at 678-5256."