Every summer, the organizers of the Great South Side Sale promise more and better merchandise.
And every year, they make good on their vow.
Even by those increasingly high standards, this year’s sale of items donated by Lehigh students at the end of the academic year is expected to be extraordinary.
“We have clothing of all sorts—from North Face to Nordstrom’s, Sean Jean to Polo, and L.L. Bean to Phat Farm,” said Kim Carrell-Smith, professor of practice in Lehigh’s history department and co-organizer of the annual event.
“All of these items are priced from $1 to $5. We have more than 2,000 pairs of brand-name shoes, designer boots and nearly new Nikes, Timberlands and Doc Martens. We sell these for a dollar each and they fly out of the sale. And of course, we have the usual fans, pots and pans (some Calphalon), programmable coffee makers and what looks like acres of desk lamps and other college gear).”
Just recently, Carrell-Smith said, the sale organizers received 14 bags of new or nearly new girl’s clothing that ranged in size from toddler to 14, as well as several ornate dresses and pricey costumes.
This year’s sale will be held from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, June 7, in the parking lot opposite St. John’s Windish Lutheran Church at 617 E. Fourth St. Attendees are advised to arrive early since shoppers start gathering as early as 6:30 a.m.
The sale will offer up clothing items, appliances, dishes, silverware, exercise equipment, athletic gear, guitars, lamps, hotpots, books, rugs, electronic equipment and other items donated by students as well as faculty and staff. The donated items were dropped off at Windish Hall through the month of May. Nearly 100 volunteers put in more than a thousand hours sorting and pricing them.
Some items went into the general inventory category, while some exceptional pieces make their way to the “premium pile,” says Carrell-Smith.
This year’s selection includes brand new Brooks Brothers shirts (tags still attached), cuff links, a sectional sofa, tables, handmade Vermont bunk or twin beds that retail for $1,500, Egyptian cotton sheet sets, a Coach handbag, a men’s new Tommy Bahama shirt, Northface jackets, and other high-brand items that include several computers and at least one laptop.
The Move-Out program started at Lehigh 16 years ago when Carrell-Smith and her husband, John K. Smith, professor of history, noticed the vast number of usable items being discarded by students who were leaving campus for the summer. Since many students didn’t have the time or the transportation to local thrift stores, those perfectly good items were tossed into dumpsters.
Carrell-Smith and her husband devised a plan to sort, price and sell the items at a one-day sale and the results exceeded their expectations.
Prices are purposely set low—usually from 25 cents to $25—to keep items affordable for community members. Even exceptional items, the organizers say, are priced to sell. An IKEA couch that would retail for $1,200 might be priced at $200.
That initial drive netted $500 for the South Bethlehem Neighborhood Center. In 2001, Carolina Hernandez, director of community service, made the project one of her office’s biggest events of the year and helped direct more volunteers to the cause.
The extra efforts—and hands—have paid off. The Great South Side Sale now typically raises more than $15,000 each year to support after-school homework clubs and educational activities for local schoolchildren. An added community benefit is the support the program lends to Lehigh’s ongoing sustainability efforts.
Each year, more than 30 tons of discarded items that would normally sit in trashcans and garbage bags on city streets and ultimately landfills find their way into the hands of community members.
The significance of the sale to the local community is underscored this year by the appearance of Lehigh President Alice P. Gast and Bethlehem Mayor Robert Donchez, as well as representatives of civic organizations and local schools, as well as governmental officials and business leaders.
Story by Linda Harbrecht
Posted on Thursday, June 05, 2014