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Lehigh's Great South Side Sale set for Saturday, June 6

Kim Carrell-Smith, professor of practice in the history department, stands knee-deep in piles of boxes and bags in Lamberton Hall. It is just days away from the Great South Side Sale, which draws thousands from the local community to scoop up bargain-priced items donated largely by departing Lehigh students.

Much remains to be done. Volunteers are busily logging, organizing and tagging items, while organizers work on a schematic for this year’s massive tent, which will soon be erected in an empty lot on Fourth and Buchanan streets for this Saturday’s sale.

“We’ve got dorm fridges – they fly out of the sale – and we’ve got lamps, some great furniture, antiques, designer clothes, shoes, handbags, some gorgeous baby clothes donated by a Lehigh employee….What don’t we have?” Carrell-Smith says in response to a question about this year’s unique items.

A separate room houses high-end items, such as $225 Kenzo sweatshirt that will probably be priced at just a few dollars, piles of Northface jackets, Brooks Brothers clothing and even a gently used tuxedo.

At the far end of Lamberton’s Great Hall, Carrell-Smith’s husband, Professor John Smith, is perusing a box of books that date to the mid-1800s, with quaint titles such as The Man Who Fell in Love with his Wife,  or the World War II-era Guide for Pilots.

For the past 14 years, Carell-Smith and Carolina Hernandez, director of the Community Service Office, have organized the perennially popular Move-Out collection drive and South Side Sale. Last year, the sale raised more than $ 19,500, a record tally that allowed Lehigh’s Community Service Office to fund homework clubs and field trips for local schoolchildren. (See sidebar for the effectiveness of these programs).

“The relationships between the Lehigh tutors and our homework club kids are truly deep and meaningful," Hernandez said. “We all care so much about the kids, and we’re invested in seeing them succeed. This event provides us with the means to do that.”

Humble beginnings

The Move-Out program began when Professors Carrell-Smith and John Smith noticed the vast number of usable items being discarded by students who were leaving campus for the summer. The couple devised the plan to sort, price and sell the items at a one-day sale. In some cases, they even positioned willing colleagues to sit next to the dumpsters to encourage students to donate their cast-offs instead of tossing them in the trash.

The initial drive netted $500 for the South Bethlehem Neighborhood Center. In 2001, Hernandez made the project one of her office’s biggest events of the year and helped direct more volunteers to the cause.

This year’s sale-goers can also expect to find air conditioners, toys, stuffed animals, holiday decorations, furniture, wall art, lamps, clothing, household linens and other “one-of-a-kind” items that include a statuette of a goddess of fertility and motherhood, a paint sprayer, a baby wipes warmer and a wheat-grass juicer.

All told, this year’s haul will fill more than three 24-foot trucks, packed to the brim with more than a hundred bags of linens, more than 300 boxes of clothing and numerous other items. The number of donated items exceeds 100,000, organizers say.

Sociology Professor Nicola Tannenbaum regularly takes on the job of sorting, sizing and pricing linens – an undertaking that keeps her busy for weeks in advance of the sale. It’s been a labor of love for at least the past 10 years for Tannenbaum, who embraces the project’s mission.

“I think this is a really wonderful thing we do with the community,” she said. “We keep items out of landfills, and we provide affordably priced clothing for people in the community. And the money goes to help the community further by funding the homework clubs, so it’s a great program all the way around.”

On Saturday, Tannenbaum will don her tiara, as fellow organizers have crowned her the “Queen of Linens.” She will be joined by scores of Lehigh volunteers who help set up and break down for the sale and manage the crowds that begin lining up as early as 6 a.m.

“We’ve had such great support from volunteers across the university,” says Carrell-Smith. “In particular, the Student Affairs division has been tremendous. And we have many international students and graduate students who are pitching in whenever they can.”

Both Carolina and Carrell-Smith say the program wouldn’t be nearly the success it is without the volunteers. “The success of this program is representative of the generous Lehigh spirit,” Hernandez said. “Our students, faculty, and staff all come together to make this possible. Over 300 volunteers donate a combined 1,500 hours. Kim and I are passionate about this initiative and look forward to its continuation for many years to come.”

This year’s Great South Side Sale will take place between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Saturday, June 6, on the corner of Fourth and Buchanan streets. Organizers are still looking for more volunteers for Saturday’s sale. For more information, please go to www.lehigh.edu/service.

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Thousands of people from the local community are expected to turn out for the sale, which will feature more than 100,000 donated items.

Homework Clubs make an impact in community

When Lehigh’s Community Service Office began partnering with the United Way Community School, Fountain Hill Elementary, to tutor local schoolchildren in after-school homework clubs, both organizations intended to make a strong impact. But even those high expectations were exceeded when the assessment figures rolled in.

“We saw improvement across the board,” said Carolina Hernandez, director of Lehigh’s Community Service office, who oversees Lehigh’s Homework Clubs project. “The great stories we’re hearing from the students, their teachers and their parents have been humbling and motivating.”

Hernandez’s office took over the Homework Clubs to fill the void caused by the closure of the South Bethlehem Neighborhood Center, which dissolved during the economic downtown of 2008.

Lehigh student tutors volunteer for four days a week for one-on-one sessions with students. Healthy snacks are provided, and additional educational activities are organized. Lehigh’s Greek organizations (supported by Dining Services) also provide weekly dinners and snack bags, and the office hosts monthly activities for students so parents can have the night off.

The academic data for participating Fountain Hill students include the following:

  • 93 percent of students improved their reading scores, 7 percent remained the same, and none decreased; of the 2 students that remained the same, one was below grade level and one was above grade level.
  • 25 percent of students began the school year reading at least one grade lower than their enrolled grade level, and by mid-year were reading on grade level; one 4th grader started at a 2nd grade level and was on a 4th grade level by mid-year.
  • 25 percent of students began the school year reading at least one grade lower than their enrolled grade level, and by mid-year, while still below, had shown impressive gains.

Perhaps even more importantly, the schoolchildren themselves expressed overwhelmingly positive impressions. More than 80 percent stated they always felt that the Homework Clubs represent a safe place, more than 88 percent found their tutors helpful, and more than 76 percent completed their homework assignments during their time with the tutors.

Nearly 86 percent of the parents state that the Lehigh tutors aided in the academic success of their children, and nearly 90 percent of the participating Lehigh students find their tutoring experience to be meaningful and worthwhile.

“In the 14 years I’ve been involved with the Homework Clubs, we must have helped hundreds of kids from the local neighborhoods,” Hernandez said. “I’ve always felt we were having a positive impact, but it’s truly inspiring to be able to measure it. And it’s great to know that so many people here at Lehigh are committed to a strong South Bethlehem community.”