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Turning trash to treasure

Athey Creek, WHS parent leads two garage sale fundraisers for school groups


Some might call Michele Jaffe a savvy fundraiser. Others might call her a glutton for punishment. It all depends on your opinion of huge garage sales.

Since December, Jaffe has been working with a group of fellow parents at Athey Creek Middle School to organize the PTSA’s third annual garage sale fundraiser. After helping with the sale for the past two years, Jaffe took the reins last fall and has been at the school every Tuesday morning for months, accepting donations from community members and then working with other parents to sort, price and pack them.by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: VERN UYETAKE - Michele Jaffe's children attend schools in both West Linn and Wilsonville. She is organizing garage sale fundraisers to benefit groups at Athey Creek Middle School and Wilsonvile High School.

She knows how successful community garage sales can be. In its first year, Athey’s sale brought in about $15,000 for the PTSA. Last year’s event was even better, with sales totaling nearly $20,000.

So when her daughter’s musical group at Wilsonville High School, Soul’d Out, won a regional a cappella competition and needed to raise money for the trip to the national competition, Jaffe knew that organizing a garage sale could be a profitable endeavor.

“When Soul’d Out won their regional competition at the end of January, that left us with the daunting task of getting 20 kids to Manhattan for the national competition,” she said. “Because of my work with the Athey sale, I thought, ‘What a great way to get the community involved and to do something pretty quickly that we knew we could do: Gather donations from the community and make some money.’”

The two groups — Athey’s PTSA and Soul’d Out — have different needs. The PTSA is raising money to return to the school in the form of grants for teachers, support for student activities and needed supplies. Soul’d Out needs to raise $35,000 or more for the five-day trip. That total includes airfare, lodging, rehearsal space and other expenses for the group’s 20 members and their teacher.

“Every one of those 20 kids deserves to go, regardless of financial need,” Jaffe said.

She had an easy time convincing the other Soul’d Out parents to get behind her plans, which form one big part of the group’s overall fundraising strategy.

"They said, ‘We’re behind you,’ and ever since then I’ve had a group of people doing it day in and day out,” she said. “You might have to be just a little crazy to do so. And that’s OK. We have a lot of fun. We sit (in the WHS parking lot) and collect donations in the early morning, in the cold driving rain. We sift through people’s items and we just have a good time.”

Representatives of both Athey’s PTSA and WHS’s Soul’d Out agree that a garage sale is a fundraiser that communities can get behind.

“We’re not asking for cash donations, although we’re not opposed to them,” Jaffe said. “We’re just saying, ‘You’re going to clean out your closets and donate to charity anyway.’”

“We have so many people drop off (donations) and say this is a nice way they can participate. We meet so many nice people,” Athey’s PTSA co-president, Saleen Chenevert, said. “People have been grateful to get rid of stuff for a good cause, to help the school and not to be asked for money.”

by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: VERN UYETAKE - Working on a garage sale fundraiser not only raises money but also creates a strong sense of community. From left, Erin Finklea, Erica Yraguen, Michele Jaffe and Saleen Chenevert are four members of a group that has been working for the past four months on Athey Creek Middle School's third annual PTSA garage sale. Jaffe works with a similar group of enthusiastic volunteers at WHS.Working on a garage sale together can be a great way to build camaraderie among parents too. Jaffe has become close friends with people she met working on Athey’s sale over the past few years. And now she is building stronger bonds with WHS parents too. Before starting on the garage sale, she knew only one other Soul’d Out parent well. Now, she counts several among her friends.

“We enjoy each other’s company, and I think it’s ... helping us really pull for each other’s children,” she said.

“Rummage sales are the best,” Erin Finklea said. An Athey parent, she started volunteering for the PTSA sale last year and has been a regular and a leader this year. She also has a child attending WHS, but she is not connected to the a cappella group. Nevertheless, she already has volunteered to work at the Soul’d Out sale.

The relationships parents build are a bonus, said Jennifer Young, a Soul’d Out parent and garage sale volunteer.

“You’re working together and you depend a lot on the other parents. There’s no way that one person or even two people could pull this off. We’re having fun, just working really hard but at the same time having a lot of fun. You really do get to know the other parents,” Young said.

“West Linn and Wilsonville, we’re really tight communities, specifically the schools,” she added. “When something needs to be done, we get community support and people pull together.”

The community also stands to benefit, Jaffe said.

“The whole community gets to participate. Whether you can donate goods or purchase goods, it’s a win-win for everybody regardless of your economic level,” she said.

“It is a very, very easy way to help support a great group of kids,” Young said.

Soul’d Out’s garage sale will be held at Wilsonville High School, 6800 SW Wilsonville Road, April 5 from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Athey Creek PTSA's garage sale will be held at Athey Creek Middle School, 2900 SW Borland Road, April 11 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and April 12 from 8 a.m. to noon.




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