Posted by StreetWise in Magazine ArticlesThe annual spring rummage sale of the Women’s Society of Winnetka Congregational Church on Thursday, May 8 is expected to result in $200,000-plus profit distributed as “benevolence grants” to more than 40 organizations, and leftover material items given to more than 50 agencies, including Chicago Women’s Health Center, the Greater Chicago Food Depository and Heartland Alliance.
With 28 different categories – from men’s apparel, to antiques, to a variety room – the sale attracts men, women, teens, children and various collectors from all areas of Chicago who hope for bargains on items that they might not ordinarily be able to buy.
Among last year’s shoppers were a family of eight who bought a year’s worth of clothing for their children. A volunteer described paying $45 for a dish at a previous sale and finding its original $400 receipt when she washed it – a 90 percent savings. Another volunteer said she bought a Tiffany lamp for $2 and then found out it would have been $500 anywhere else.
As large as these savings are, shoppers are not the biggest beneficiaries of the WCC rummage sale. Each year, approximately 40 organizations are chosen by the WCC Benevolence Committee to receive proceeds from the sale.
Not only does WCC donate all monetary profits to humanitarian organizations, it also gives away left over items to additional organizations, resulting last year in a total of 61 beneficiaries.“In essence it’s a huge recycling project,” Laurie Kaplan, co-chair of the Benevolence Committee for the past four years, said. “We reuse everything. Nothing gets thrown away and we get all of these things to the right places.”
Each fall, Kaplan, co-chair Caroline Kenly and approximately 18-20 other committee members start the reviewing process. Reviews include a visit to the agency itself, an overview of financial standings and needs, and an in-person interview between a member of the organization and a committee member. Once the reviews are in, the committee democratically chooses the organizations that will benefit from that year’s sales.
On average, the committee receives approximately 40-50 applications and makes selections based on the amount of funds to be divided, needs of the organization and the goals of the organization.
Typically, Kaplan said, organizations that assist women, children or basic needs will be top-priority, but there is no limit on types of organizations they might consider.
The Greater Chicago Food Depository, for instance, is not their typical choice.
“They are just the gold standard for food and hunger. They provide to so many agencies that we support as well, so we feel good about that relationship,” Kaplan said.
Infant, more typical of WCC beneficiary organizations, is a 501(c)(3) that strives to assist new mothers by providing layettes and formula. Since the organization is so small, Kaplan said it’s easy to see the results of the donations during annual reviews.
“Many of these agencies can’t earmark funds—unrestricted donations are much better for them,” said Kaplan. “But in such a case when a small 501(c)(3) agency runs on its volunteers and doesn’t even have an office space, all of our money is going to the end user. And we can see the results when we go for reviews.”
“I personally have done a lot of other volunteer work,” Kaplan recalled. “This is by far the most gratifying because we get to go out to these agencies and see the funds at work.”
Time: 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Location: Winnetka Community House, 620 Lincoln Ave., Winnetka.
A list of last year’s beneficiaries includes:
Association House , Barreto Boys’ and Girls’ Club, Chicago Commons, Chicago Women’s Health Center, ChildServ, Concordia Place, Connections for Abused Women & their Children, Deborah’s Place , Erie/Helping Hands Health, Erika’s Lighthouse, Family Matters, Family Service of Winnetka-Northfield, Glenkirk, Goldies Place, Good News Partners, Greater Chicago Food Depository, H.O.M.E. , Housing Options for Mentally lll/Evanston , Howard Area Community Center, Infant , Infant Welfare Society of Evanston, Interfaith House, Josselyn Center, Juvenile Protective Association, La Casa Norte, Lawyer’s Committee for Better Housing , Links – North Shore Youth Services, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), New Foundation Center , New Trier Township Angel Fund, The Night Ministry, North Shore Senior Center, Onward Neighborhood House, Open Books, Salvation Army, Chicago Metropolitan Division, Salvation Army of Chicago, Sarah’s Circle, Shore Community Services, Tuesday’s Child, Winnetka Youth Organization , YWCA Evanston/North Shore
StreetWise Editorial Intern