On an early Saturday morning last June, a line began to form at the intersection of Fourth and Buchanan Streets in South Bethlehem. The line snaked down the block as members of the community eagerly anticipated the opportunity to buy items such as designer jeans, sunglasses, televisions and household items during Lehigh’s Great South Side Sale.
Within 10 minutes of the sale’s opening, 650 people had entered the 18,000 square feet of space covered in sellable items. Five hours later, more than $14,000 had been collected.
This year’s sale promises to be even bigger.
The Great South Side Sale recycles unwanted items donated by students during the end-of-year Move-Out Program. Unwanted goods are picked up at residence halls and sorted by a volunteer team of students, faculty and staff. The items are then sold to the community at reduced prices, with the funds donated to the Community Service Office’s (CSO) Homework Clubs for local school children.
This year’s sale will be held Saturday, June 11, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the parking lot at Fourth and Buchannan Streets. The massive collection drive that began in late April will require two 100-foot tents to hold all the sale items.
“The Move Out Collection Drive and Great South Side Sale have such an impact on the South Side,” says graduate student Josh Leight, who has been instrumental in organizing the project. “Not only does the South Side Sale fund the CSO's Homework Clubs, but we sell high quality items for such low prices that many South Side residents truly need and would not be able to get any other way.”
A flagship program
The project started 13 years ago when Professors Kim Carrell-Smith and John Smith noticed the vast number of usable items being discarded by students who were leaving campus for the summer. That initial drive netted $500 for the South Bethlehem Neighborhood Center. In the last few years, Carolina Hernandez, director of community service, has made the project one of the CSO’s biggest events of the year.
“The Move Out Collection Drive and Great South Side Sale is one of the flagship programs for the Community Service Office,” Hernandez says. “It brings faculty, staff, students and community members together unlike any other initiative on campus.”
Carrell-Smith says “it is enormously rewarding to both John and me that Lehigh has made this such a part of its culture. Students are so generous with their donations, and staff and faculty work so hard with community members to prepare for the sale.
“By sale day, it is overwhelming to see the crowds, the overflowing tents, and the happy families who walk away with arms full of great bargains,” she says. “To think this funds three homework clubs is incredible, especially when we contemplate our original collection method of dumpster diving and delivering miscellaneous finds to the local thrift store!”
In addition to providing a valuable bridge between the university and the community, the Great South Side Sale helps Lehigh’s sustainability efforts.
“The South Side sale is a wonderful and meaningful initiative of Lehigh University that not only embodies Lehigh acting as a responsible steward of the environment but also serves the local community,” says Delicia Nahman, Lehigh’s sustainability coordinator. “This monumental effort diverts approximately 30 tons of discarded items originally collected upon students moving out of campus housing from the Lehigh waste stream.”