For Carolina Hernandez and Kim Carrell-Smith, the most wonderful day of the year comes in early June, not late December.
It is the culmination of weeks of work, say the co-organizers of the highly successful Great South Side Sale, which recycles items donated or discarded by departing students and other members of the Lehigh community, and then sells them to local shoppers at a massive tent sale held the first Saturday in June.
Now in its 19th year, the Great South Side Sale had its best-ever sale this past Saturday, generating $21,000 in profits—one hundred percent of which is funneled back into the community for programming for local schoolchildren, including Lehigh’s nationally recognized Homework Clubs.
“The money funds field trips, tutors, local homework clubs and other activities,” said Hernandez, director of Lehigh's Community Service Office. “It’s a win all the way around. Students can donate what they no longer want or need. Members of the South Side community can buy what they do need with dignity. And everything raised goes directly to programs that benefit local kids.”
For Lehigh Assistant Vice President of Community and Regional Affairs Adrienne McNeil-Washington, her inaugural sale was an incredibly inspiring experience.
“It was just terrific,” she said. “It was the first time I was able to attend the sale, and I have a much deeper appreciation for Carolina and Kim and the rest of the Lehigh team, who do a great job pulling this event together. We were greeting the residents and thanking them for attending. But the residents of the neighborhoods were thanking us at Lehigh for putting this event together each year. I served as a cashier and folks were saying this is the only time of year they get clothes for themselves.”
The organizers recognized the support of Bethlehem Mayor Bob Donchez, City Councilwoman Olga Negron, Bethlehem Area School District Superintendent Joseph Roy and principals from the South Side schools. The local dignitaries helped open the event and welcomed some of the nearly 1,500 people who streamed into the tent. Within the first 15 minutes, Hernandez said, roughly 1,100 were shopping.
“I got here at 6 a.m., and there were people waiting in line already,” she said.
Both Carrell-Smith and Hernandez acknowledged the support of more than 100 members of the Lehigh community, who helped sort, tag and organize all the donated items in the weeks leading up to the sale. This year, day-of volunteers were joined by members of Lehigh’s men’s basketball team, adding much-needed muscle for set-up and breakdown.
"The basketball players made a huge contribution by carrying furniture over the heads of the crowds in the first hour or so, and helping us clean up at the end of the day when we could hardly move,” said Carrell-Smith, a professor of practice in the department of history. “They were so thoughtful and cheerful, too. That seems to be a hallmark of Great South Side Sale volunteers, and it's one of the reasons I love working with the Community Service Office so much: the energy at their events is so positive, and folks always pitch in cheerfully, no matter what the task. That's the spirit of service and social justice, and it's just plain fun, too!"
The Move-Out program started at Lehigh 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 and the results exceeded their expectations. That 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.
Photos courtesy of Marco Calderon