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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Lighten Up garage sale to benefit local non-profits

< a fan to combat next year’s heat wave? New DVDs to hasten the end of that long summer break? Perhaps something to make your Musser double a little more aesthetically pleasing?

Come to Carleton’s tenth annual Lighten Up garage sale on Thursday, June 17 and Friday the 18 from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The event, sponsored by the ACT Center, sells used – but clean and functional – items that Carleton students donate at the end of spring term. Profits from the sale are split between three local non-profits: the Northfield Union of Youth (The Key), Project Friendship, and Northfield Special Olympics.

After students move out, teams composed partially of Carleton students sort through the donations and bring them to West Gym, where the sale eventually takes place. Volunteers are also provided by the organizations that receive the profits.

“The community partners commit a lot of time to the event,” said Kelly Scheuerman, ACT Assistant Director.

Scheuerman and ACT Director Laura Riehle-Merrill stressed that clean, useful and unbroken donations are what the ACT Center really needs.  In addition, they urge Carls not to take items from dorms before they are collected.

“One challenge we have is that people have the sense that this stuff is free rein. People sort through the donations on their own and that’s been an issue. These are donations to non-profit organizations and not to Carleton. On a logistical level it’s tough as well; it means more work for us,” said Scheuerman.

Lighten Up’s profits have steadily increased year to year with larger crowds drawn from Northfield residents as well as the Twin Cities. In particular, Lighten Up advertises itself to Faribault’s Somali community, Northfield Latinos and lower-income families.

One notable demographic the sale aids is that of graduating seniors from Northfield High School. The school year ends around the same time as the sale occurs, and local students often find useful items for their own college careers.

“It sort of completes the cycle,” said Scheuerman.

Crucial as well is the business of professional booksellers. Often from the Twin Cities, they participate in silent bidding for books at the sale and their contributions are a significant portion of Lighten Up’s profits, according to Riehle-Merrill.

Last year, Lighten Up raised about $24,000.

Though there may be small changes from year to year at the sale – for example, plans to organize a for-profit refreshment table outside of West Gym are currently in progress –  Lighten Up’s structure, partners, and atmosphere remain the same.

 “What I love about the sale is the rush of opening day in combination with bizarre items you find,” said Riehle-Merrill. “My favorite is a plush toy from a couple of years ago – it was a toy person with a wide mouth which you could reach into and then pull out its internal organs. It got sold to an eight-year-old girl. You see bizarre stuff being reunited with its rightful owner all the time.”

“I always find treasure,” said Connie Nuebel, who organizes the event for Special Olympics. “I’m addicted to the sale now. It’s an awful lot of work but it’s very cool and very rewarding. I have lots of good memories of working with volunteers.”

“I love the idea of Lighten Up,” said Scheuerman. “At other colleges, students throw stuff in dumpsters and town residents then dumpster dive. A lot of people in the community know it’s dumpster day at St. Olaf. I like the sense that we’re connecting and raising money for a community need. It’s a win-win: students need to get rid of stuff and community members need that stuff.”

This year, the organizers do have one specific wish: “Hopefully the heat will stay down. We’re hoping students donate a lot of fans that we can use for a while,” joked Nuebel.

A particular issue Riehle-Merrill and Scheuerman raised about the importance of Lighten Up is that of local residents’ perception of Carleton’s wastefulness. Due to the mass exodus of 2,000 students away from Carleton in a short period of time, some in the Northfield community believe that a lot gets thrown away in the course of moving out.

“We’re trying to dispel that myth,” said Scheuerman.

Students wishing to contribute  anything from clothes to furniture to books to miscellaneous items can deposit their donations in boxes located on the first floor of any dorm beginning around June 9.

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