March 24, 2020
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A familiar marker of fall in Gambier, the Harcourt Parish Rummage Sale provides Kenyon students and Gambier residents with everything from hot dog costumes to fuzzy green carpets and coats that can handle Ohio winters. Now, for the first time in its almost 80-year history, the overwhelming size of the sale has motivated the parish to turn operation of its popular event over to the College.
By harvesting end-of-the-year donations from residence halls and reselling them at the Gambier Community Center, the sale can offer necessary goods to students and village residents at much lower costs than retail price. Proceeds from the sale, which has earned up to $20,000 each year, go directly to local organizations such as furniture bank HopeNow; the Winter Sanctuary, a homeless shelter; and the local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illnesses.
“That amount of money is in part because of how hard we worked, but it’s also because of our unusual access to the college dormitories and the generosity of the students,” said Perry Lentz ’64, professor emeritus of English and senior warden of the parish.
Originally an event selling only donations from parishioners, the sale cemented its place in the College’s history in 1987, when the parish obtained permission to collect and sell donated clothing and furniture from the residence halls. Soon after, “the pile of things donated continued to get larger and larger,” Lentz recounted, “until one year, it got so heavy that it almost collapsed on [Professor Emeritus of English] Bill Klein, trapping him in the room.”
Over the course of the next 30 years, the sale’s overwhelming size introduced obstacles to the parish. After calling upon friends and neighbors for help, acquiring two semitrailers to move goods, and even hiring people to assist with the sale, the vestry eventually decided last fall that they could no longer run the sale, giving the College an opportunity to take up operation.
Samantha Turner ’10, the newly hired point person for the rummage sale, said the College’s commitment to sustainability informed its choice to continue the sale. Lentz recognized the far-reaching effects of a sale like this not only on the environment, but on the lives of students and community members.
“To see people who have had a difficult time in the socioeconomic reality of this Ohio county counting upon the sale,” he said, “to see international students who have no idea what to anticipate in terms of cold weather gear be assured by the admissions people, ‘Don’t worry, we’ve got the rummage sale.’ … to see students who could outfit dormitories so even if they don’t come from the most luxurious circumstances they could still have dorm refrigerators — it was just entirely positive that way.”
Turner said that with the exception of staffing changes and item storage, the look of the sale will not change. With more hands helping from Kenyon, the burden of the operation will be greatly reduced, while the opportunity for community members to collect old memories and create new ones will remain.
“It was a wonderful gathering for the community, wasn’t it?” recalled Lentz. “When you were down at the sale, you were probably there with toddlers, elderly people, students … all shopping together. All sharing.”
Donations to the rummage sale will be accepted at the Gambier Community Center Monday, May 14, to Friday, May 18, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
—Anna Libertin ’18