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Great South Side Sale aids community children

Kim Carrell-Smith, professor of history, left, a co-founder of the Great South Side Sale 14 years ago, and Carolina Hernandez, director of the Community Service Office, sort through donations for this year's sale on June 2.

When Ryan McKeon ’12G received an offer to work at Caltech in Pasadena, Calif., he knew he couldn’t relocate all of his belongings some 3,000 miles from Lehigh’s campus in Bethlehem. Luckily, just a few blocks from his off-campus home, he was able to donate the clothing, books and other belongings that wouldn’t be making the move.

And the donations made by McKeon and other students departing campus are actually a means to improve the lives and educational support of children in South Bethlehem.

The annual Move Out collection drive provides students leaving for the summer with a place to take unwanted items. Rather than filling trash cans and dumpsters with usable good, students deposit the items in bins at their residence halls, where they’re picked up and sorted by a volunteer team of students, faculty and staff.

Once sorted, the items are moved to a parking lot at the intersection of Fourth and Buchanan Streets in South Bethlehem, where they will be sold during the Great South Side Sale on Saturday, June 2, from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

While countless items are diverted from the trash each year (one ton of perishable food was salvaged last year), the biggest benefit is the money raised to help the homework clubs run by Lehigh’s Community Service Office (CSO). Last year, the sale raised nearly $14,000 in funds necessary to run homework clubs at three sites for 60 children who reside and attend school in Lehigh’s surrounding community.

“These homework clubs provide a safe space and mentoring for the kids who participate,” says Carolina Hernandez, director of the CSO.

Nearly 100 Lehigh students serve as tutors during the homework clubs, which run for 2.5 hours Monday through Thursday. In addition to tutoring, the students receive school supplies and snacks, and participate in incentive programs and field trips. Last year during outings to the bowling alley, students were forced to tally their own scores and compare their scores to the group using math skills they learned in school.

“It’s a privilege to work and live in this community, knowing that something as simple as shopping can make an impact,” Hernandez says. “We are able to do such great things with these kids and form solid relationships for years because of this money. It’s pretty humbling.”

In addition to the homework clubs, the CSO organizes Parents’ Night Out, a monthly opportunity for local parents to take a night off while their children enjoy dinner, games, and arts and crafts on Lehigh’s campus.

Hernandez says all of these programs are made possible through the money raised at the Great South Side Sale, and fill a void that was left when the South Bethlehem Community Center closed its doors. 

This weekend’s event marks the 14th year for the Great South Side Sale. Volunteers this week are sorting through large stacks of boxes and racks of clothing throughout the Kenner Theater at Ulrich Student Center. The items will be modestly priced so that community members can shop for their families without stretching their budgets.

Story by Tricia Long

Posted on Wednesday, May 30, 2012

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