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Garage sales at Chermside Kedron Comunity, Sherwood Uniting Church and Paradise Point Uniting Church.
Garage sales at Chermside Kedron Comunity, Sherwood Uniting Church and Paradise Point Uniting Church. Photos: Pauline Thomas, Peter Alfredson and the Refresh Your Stash Facebook page

How to run great garage sales that deliver the goods

Every weekend someone, somewhere is having a garage sale. And who can resist the allure of finding just what you need or a hidden treasure among the piles of household items? Journey asks churches for their tips for turning trash into treasure.

Garage sales can be important fundraisers for local churches as well as great opportunities to connect with the local community. But like any successful event, a well-run garage sale requires planning, team work, marketing and focus.

It’s also important to have fun working together and socialising with the neighbours and passers-by who are visiting your church, perhaps for the first time.

Queensland Synod Uniting Green liaison, David Weddell points out that many of our transactions these days are clinical and non-personal.

“In a world of online shopping, home delivery and self-scan groceries, it’s a pleasant change to meet the person who owned the item before you. It also adds emotional value to the item when you know its history,” says David.

“In environmental terms it’s a double win each time you find a new home for an old item. First, you avoid sending your old item to landfill. Second, you help others get what they need with less environmental impact. By buying second hand, we save resources and reduce the pollution that comes from production and transport of new items.”

If the shoe fits

Before you start accumulating piles of second-hand goods in your garage, there are a few things to consider.

Firstly, what model is right for your church community?

Chermside Kedron Community Church in northern Brisbane has chosen a model which minimises people power and organisation, allowing the church to run about four garage sale events a year since 2013.

Pauline Thomas says the church was looking for a regular community event that would provide an avenue for selling craft, baked goods, plants and so on.

“We had staged a couple of fetes in the previous ten years and this seemed an alternative that might offer a steady income with less risk and fewer people involved in the planning/running of each event.”

The church raises about $750 at each event, which goes into general funds. Stallholders pay $10 per car space, and provide their own tables and seating.

“We have a church stall in the foyer of the church (mostly craft items, jams, pickles and plants), a sausage sizzle with cold soft drinks, tea and coffee available and, if possible, a car wash as well. Our thrift shop is open on the day from nine to noon and often provides a table of second-hand books,” says Pauline.

The church office deals with stallholder bookings which mostly come from email contact with previous stallholders or as a response to their large sign on Gympie Road.

Refresh your stash

On the other side of Brisbane, the members of Sherwood Uniting Church held their first craft garage sale last year. The church runs quarterly market days with local stallholders, craft classes, a stall at the Sherwood Street Festival, and is known for its quilting group activities.

Margaret Cullen-Erickson says that Refresh Your Stash was aimed at providing local quilters with a way to meet up and buy and sell craft supplies.

“We have our own sale tables with donated craft supplies but also hire out table spaces to others. We try to partner as well with other groups for the catering; last year, Community Bridges did a wonderful job of feeding visitors, workers and stallholders alike.

“As our volunteer numbers are small, this helped us to concentrate on the craft side whilst providing a fundraising opportunity for another group.”

Every year, Sherwood partners with an organisation that receives the profits from the church’s events.

“Last year our partner was Act For Peace; this year it will be the Sherwood Neighbourhood Centre. As well as fundraising, we use our events to raise awareness of the work done through our partner organisation,” says Margaret.

The bigger the better

Gympie Region Uniting Church undertakes one big garage sale each year, with the organisation and sales run by the congregation. Between $2500 to $3500 is raised for general church funding through the sale of general goods, homemade baking and plants.

Charles Wakeham has been running the event for the last two years.

He starts preparations three months prior to the sale, collecting items if necessary and sorting them into various categories for pricing and setting out.

“All work is undertaken by the congregation with teams each with a separate leader. We have a dedicated team which price the general goods in pricing sessions over the preceding month; we set prices low to encourage their sale. Everyone helps in setting out the items on the Friday prior to the sale and packing up the unsold items.”

The organisers at Paradise Point Uniting Church on the Gold Coast have been running garage sales for more than 20 years, and Peter Alfredson says they are a good way to raise funds and foster interaction with the community. With two garage sales a year, the church raises $30 000 each year to support the church budget.

“Our garage sales cover a wide variety of goods: books, clothing, collectables, jewellery, craft, cooking, electrical goods, furniture, hardware, kitchenware and crockery, manchester, pictures, plants and toys—and we target the whole community looking for items at a bargain price,” says Peter.

Goods are stored in a shipping container, in storerooms and private garages until the preparation week, when 50 or so people will spend every morning sorting and pricing.

“All goods are donated by members and particularly by the community where we have a great reputation for our garage sales,” says Peter. “All stalls are organised and staffed with our own church members—about 70 involved in all. An excellent builder of fellowship in the congregation!”

Get the word out

Garage, jumble or car boot sales, market days, trash and treasure: congregations state-wide promote their community outreach fundraisers under different names—but if you’re looking to expand your reach, hopping on the trendy Garage Sale Trail bandwagon may be your best option.

“Garage Sale Trail is an initiative encouraging people to hold their garage sales all on the same weekend,” explains David Weddell.

“The idea is that on that day the neighbourhood would have a variety of garage sales all happening and locals can hop from one to the next as they look for bargains. It’s a great idea to build community, and it’s also a great chance to get free publicity for your garage sale.”

Other low to no-cost ways of promoting your event include listing your event on your church website, the Synod website’s What’s On, Gumtree and Nabo; creating a Facebook event and inviting friends; and cross-marketing at public events held at your church through posters, flyers and outdoor signage.

Tips from congregations:

  • Avoid the dates of elections, local markets and school holidays.
  • Advertising is important—your outdoor sign is your best asset!
  • Make use of church and community notice boards, local newspapers,
    radio listings and paid ads in the local paper’s garage sale section.
  • Use social media to keep in touch with interest groups.
  • Have a dedicated person to handle marketing and use your contacts
    to spread the word.
  • If you have a small congregation, partner with other groups for catering and so on.
  • Keep the congregation informed on a weekly basis.
  • Put together a large team of committed volunteers with a good coordinator.
  • Keep prices low so that goods sell.
  • Do not store unsold goods from one sale to the next. Donate to other charities
    or take them to a council waste transfer station.

Find or add your next Uniting Church garage sale event on
ucaqld.com.au/whatson

Get involved in the 2016 Garage Sale Trail by registering on garagesaletrail.com.au, then download ready-made signs to use on the day and in your promotions.

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