Free garage sale touches more than 4,000
Special to The Pathway
August 31, 2004
KANSAS CITY – “Just exactly what does ‘free’ mean?” That question was asked by an elderly lady waiting in line for the CityFocus Free Garage Sale held last July 31. She was assured that it meant FREE. Once she registered her name and address she could take anything she wanted at no charge, and if an item was too big for her to carry, volunteers would help take it to her car. She shook her head in disbelief and stepped back into the line of over 500 people waiting for the doors to open.
The CityFocus Free Garage Sale registered over 900 families, representing over 4000 prospects. A crowd estimated at 1500-2000 came through the doors of the Blue Ridge Mall Expo Center and carried out thousands of items that had been donated for the event. Not every person was registered. One person from each family represented filled out a card for that family and indicated how many persons were in their household.
Friday, July 30 was the set up day for the event. Fifty-six volunteers worked all day receiving items being brought to the Expo Center by churches and individuals. Truckloads of clothing, toys, housewares, bedding, electronics and miscellaneous items were carried into the building and distributed to their respective areas. At the end of the day there were over 100 bags and boxes of clothing that were left unopened because there wasn’t enough space to display them. Those items were used to restock the tables and racks as items were carried out on Saturday.
The “sale” ran from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., but people were lined up at the doors well before they opened. The first person arrived shortly after 7:00 a.m., and by the time the doors opened at 9:00, there were over 500 people in line. Each person who entered the doors was given a LifeWay Christian Store shopping bag that contained a directory of Kansas City area Baptist churches and an Eternal Life evangelistic tract. All of the tracts were donated by the North American Mission Board through the efforts of the Missouri Baptist Convention department of evangelism. Lifeway donated the first 1000 shopping bags. Four thousand more were purchased in anticipation of the crowd. Both the Missouri and Kansas/Nebraska state conventions contributed $500 toward the expenses of the project.
When the people entered the building they found more than just a “garage sale.” Clowns from FBC, Raytown, and Clowns for Christ greeted the people and provided balloons and face painting for the children. Musical groups from FBC, Oak Grove, Calvary Temple B.C., puppets from Red Bridge B.C. and Northland Oaks Community Church, and the Jewish Dance Team from FBC, Raytown, performed throughout the day. The Expo Center sold hot dogs, chips and soda to those who were hungry.
Many people who attended the event openly expressed their gratitude. One woman who had come with her young son had just checked out of a homeless shelter. She came to the event with very little, but she left with clothes, dishes and other items necessary to help get her life in order.
Another woman made it a point to shake the hand of each volunteer as she left, thanking each one for his or her part in the event. A third woman arrived with a handwritten thank-you note and gave it to the volunteer who registered her. And several people who attended the event insisted on giving a dollar or two as their way of saying thank you.
Loren Hutchinson, coordinator for the event, was amazed at how much was donated from the churches. He remarked, “I spent Thursday night worrying about whether we would have enough items for the “sale”, and spent Friday night worrying about how we would ever get rid of everything.” He didn’t have to worry. By 2:00 p.m. Saturday, every non-clothing item in the building had been taken. Seventy-five volunteers that had helped throughout the day loaded trucks from the Salvation Army and Big Brothers and Big Sisters with leftover clothing and shoes. By 2:30 p.m. the building was empty again.
Everyone involved with the event said it was a great success, but the real measure of success will be in the follow-up conducted by our churches. The registrations were placed in a computer database and sorted by zip code. Each church in a registered zip code received a list of prospects from their area. Our hope is that many people will be reached for Christ in the visits that follow.