A dozen years ago Herb Gage, pastor of Cavern Baptist Church in Carlsbad, New Mexico, told the congregation his wife had heard of a church in another state that hosted a “free garage sale.” Members agreed to try it, and, as they say, the rest is history.
For 12 years the church has held at least two sales a year — and more recently, three to four. Members are asked to bring used household items, toys and clothes, and over the years, the community began pitching in with a steady stream of donations.
Bibles provided by the Baptist Convention of New Mexico, Gideons International and others are given away at each sale.
Organizers say they sometimes have to have an extra sale because donations exceed storage space, which consists of a three-bedroom house, a two-car garage, a 20×24 storage building and any other place they can find. A crew works weekly sorting items and hanging clothes, to have everything ready for the next sale.
On the day of the event volunteers meet from 6–8 a.m. to set up tables and move everything to the parking lot, and at 8a.m. they join in prayer.
Then the shopping begins.
Christmas in July
Preparation for the Christmas sale begins in February, with good, used toys set aside; in July organizers request donations of new toys.
Participants receive a bag and “shop” for the items, which all are free. They also receive a numbered ticket to shop for two to four toys each, depending on what’s available.
They also can register for larger items like bicycles, basketball goals and ride-on toys.
Each shopper also receives a stocking with toys, candy and a New Testament.
The giving goes on
Any donated money goes to the New Mexico Baptist Children’s Home and Family Ministries in Portales.
When the sale ends at noon, any clothes left go to a group that delivers them to Mexico, with other leftover items returned to storage. And the cycle begins again.
Jean Bryant, church clerk and music director, coordinates the receipt of donations, sorting, recruiting volunteers and other preparation. In between, she meets with anyone requesting assistance to see if the church can meet the need.
In the 12 years Cavern Baptist has held the sales, there has never been a cancelation because of weather. It might rain the night before or at 1 p.m. when the sale is through, but sale days have always been clear.
The most recent garage sale was Dec. 17, with donations reaching $325 for NMBCH. Volunteers distributed 150 Bibles that day.
Gage reported $3,000 in donations, which will go to help purchase toys for this year’s Christmas sale.
EDITOR’S NOTE — This story was written by Joy Pittman and originally published by the Baptist New Mexican.