The Foothills Rummage Sale has been a cornerstone of both our community-building and fundraising efforts over the past three decades. The amount of time and care that so many have given on behalf of the Rummage Sale is truly mind-boggling. This time and care has in turn resulted in up to $25,000 (at its peak so far) in funds to support our mission and vision in a given year. Along the way, the Rummage Sale has been a great way for people to get to know each other and to build friendships that last far beyond the few weeks of the sale. It’s also been a great way to serve our community, offering low-cost good-quality goods right as the school year returns and many are searching out bargains.
Over these same years, however, many changes have been happening both in the church and in Fort Collins. In both, the population has grown exponentially. Within Fort Collins, this population increase has meant that there are now multiple second-hand stores that are open throughout the year, so that our offering isn’t quite as value-added as it used to be. This is a relatively minor consideration, however, as we look at some of the other changes that have occurred….
Within our own community, our growth has meant that space is almost always tight – and as we have moved to a year-round schedule, while the summer is slightly less crowded, it is still often full throughout the week with programs and meetings. Each year, as our community has grown, so have the donations (thank you!), and so the need for space and volunteers have also grown. While we ask everyone to pre-sort their goods, we ultimately have more stuff than we have usable space, and this is frustrating for everyone.
Speaking of that usable space, as religious education classes for children and youth are active and well-attended throughout the whole year, the space available in the Classroom Building is less than it has been previously, and even when it is available, it is able to sustain a much lower impact as it needs to be reset to accommodate children and/or youth every Sunday – so clean up is very stressful. (To help with this, we have experimented with moving the dates earlier in the summer, but this has resulted in fewer volunteers available due to vacations…we’ve wondered if moving to June would be better…?)
Also, over these years our leadership has prioritized holding worship every Sunday as central to our mission. This was especially made possible by the addition of a second minister in 2012. Although we attempted to hold these services outdoors, our growing population and value to ensure the space is accessible to all made this not a viable alternative, and so this resulted in the sanctuary no longer being a place for the rummage sale to be held on Sundays.
The various space constraints are also made more challenging by a dwindling volunteer population resulting from two main factors. First, our longtime volunteers are – much to their chagrin – aging. They no longer can or want to volunteer in the same physically demanding ways that they have in the past. Many have stepped down entirely while others have simply scaled back. The vacancies left by these changes, however, have not been sufficiently filled by a new volunteer base – particularly in terms of taking management and leadership level responsibility.
Younger people today are often overly busy with two-career households and caring for both children and aging parents. Free time is down – nationwide. What free time people do have, they prioritize more direct-service, high-impact, and often short-term volunteer roles – for example, we have no problem filling our 25 twice-a-month Food Bank @ Foothills roles – we actually have more interest than we have volunteer slots – and these are all direct-service, high-impact and short-term roles.
This volunteer shortage means that the community and friendship building aspects of the sale just aren’t as great as they were in the past – because it’s more stressful to do so much work without enough people to do that work. Also with the space constraints, the sale is spread out across more of our campus, meaning volunteers often work on their own – which may be good for some seeking solitude! – but isn’t conducive to the laughter and fun times that many of us remember.
All of this – the population growth, the space constraints, and the changes in volunteering – lead us to wondering if and how we can continue our Rummage Sale in the next year – and beyond. We need new leaders to emerge if we are going to be able to continue – leaders who will look at these challenges and find new and creative solutions, and leaders who are willing to take on a management level role. We believe we will need at least four such leaders to step forward by February 15th if we are going to hold a Rummage Sale this year.
We hope all those who care about the Rummage Sale and who are willing to consider being one of these new leaders will come to a Rummage Sale meeting on Sunday January 22nd at 10:10 in the Sanctuary. If you have questions before then, please be in touch with Pam Stevens (970-225-1223, firstname.lastname@example.org) or Ben Manvel (970-484-3249, email@example.com), longtime dedicated leaders for the Rummage Sale. So much good has happened as a result of this incredible effort, and now’s the time for us to work out the next good steps, whatever those will be.