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Upcoming South Side Sale to funnel goods and profits back into the neighborhood

Kim Carrell-Smith (left) and Carolina Hernandez lead a crew of volunteers who help sort and price thousands of items donated by departing students and others.

The success of the Great South Side Sale is rarely in doubt. Each year, eager throngs wait as long as two hours for the start of the early-June sale for the best shot at the prime merchandise—furniture, household items, exercise equipment, handbags and designer clothing (many pieces still bearing original tags)–that is sold at rock bottom prices. All profits raised go to afterschool homework clubs at three sites for nearly 80 local schoolchildren.

Last year, nearly 900 people crowded into large tents set up on the corner of Fourth and Buchanan streets within the first 15 minutes of the sale.

The challenge facing this year’s organizers is besting last year’s record-breaking $16,700 tally–a far cry from the $500 raised 15 years ago during the first year of the Move-Out Collection drive and sale of the items collected from departing students.

But Kim Carrell-Smith, director of the Community Fellows program and professor of practice in the history department, and Carolina Hernandez, director of Lehigh’s Community Service Office, are optimistic.

“I am so incredibly impressed with the increased volume of donations this year,” says Hernandez. “This has truly become a Lehigh family event. Students, faculty and staff members alike are donating in vast numbers. It’s really rewarding to see this level of generosity, especially among students, and to see the community connections we build through this event.”

Adds Carrell: “It’s been amazing to see this program grow and improve each year and to see the number of people who can benefit from it expand as well.”

Each year, both Hernandez and Carrell-Smith lead a team of Lehigh volunteers, who sort through thousands of items donated by students before leaving the area as the academic year draws to a close. Rather than merely discarding the items and relegating them to a landfill, students donate the unwanted items. They are collected, sorted, priced and readied for the sale that will be held this year from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, June 1st.

Both also agree that the addition of Windish Hall on East Packer Avenue as a central receiving and sorting point has helped the program coordinators keep up with the high volume of donations. Dozens of volunteers organized items as diverse as a life-sized stuffed pony, mini-fridges, rugs, linens, designer clothing, brand-new kettle weights, and a glittery pink Christmas tree.

“And there are enough mini Christmas lights to light the way from South Side to the north side of town,” says Carrell-Smith. “We also have a mountain of clothing, many kitchen items, crystal and appliances galore.”

Any donated, non-perishable food items are also diverted to South Side food pantries as they come in. Last year, organizers say that more than a ton of food filled local pantry shelves. Cleaning products and toiletries go to a local homeless shelter so that every item donated is put to good use, Carrell-Smith says.

The Move-Out collection and subsequent sale is the brainchild of Carrell-Smith and her husband and fellow history professor, John Smith, who took note of the volume and caliber of the items discarded by departing students. Mindful of the needs of many in the community, the couple started the drive 15 years ago by having receptacles placed in key locations around campus and urging students to donate rather than discard items that could be put to better use.

For more information or to volunteer, visit lehigh.edu/moveout.

Story by Linda Harbrecht

Posted on Tuesday, May 28, 2013

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