Community rummage sale done after 53 years, schools take Maloit Park site
MINTURN — Imagine astronomer Carl Sagan strolling through the Eagle Valley Community Fund rummage sale exclaiming “billions and billions” and you’ll have some idea how much stuff could be stuffed into the old Maloit Park school building.
Now imagine Sagan’s voice echoing off empty walls.
This past summer’s rummage was the last rummage sale. The Eagle County school district owns the land and needs it for about a dozen modular classrooms to accommodate 200 Red Sandstone Elementary School students while the school is rebuilt beginning next summer. Red Sandstone is one of the school district’s voter-approved bond projects.
The school board voted Wednesday, Sept. 27, to terminate the Eagle Valley Community Fund’s agreement to use the Maloit Park building for its annual rummage sale. After 53 years, Eagle County’s longest-running fundraiser is over.
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Almost as old as Vail
The rummage sale started in 1964 with a group of Vail parents raising money for the upstart Vail Country Day School. The school migrated from Pete Seibert’s family dining room table to Vail’s firehouse to a room above the Lionshead Village gondola and then to an unfinished space above Vail’s medical clinic.
A spirited group of Vail pioneer parents convinced the Eagle County school district to put a public school in their fledgling town and staff it with two teachers. The parents borrowed $50,000 to finish the space above the medical clinic and started the rummage sale to pay off that debt.
“It took us from ’68 to ’73 to pay off our $50,000,” Nancy Nottingham said.
After that, the rummage sale was the genesis of the first countywide community fund, the Eagle Valley Community Fund. Longtime Vail local Vi Brown and Nottingham were members of the original board.
After chairing the event for 49 years, Brown retired. Tom Russo and Nottingham became co-chairs, because, Nottingham said, it takes two people to replace Vi.
Depending on the Money
On Monday, Sept. 25, the Eagle Valley Community Fund board met for what would be its final check-passing party, distributing more than $170,000 to dozens of local organizations, said Karen Eyrick, Eagle Valley Community Fund board member. As they have for decades, each organization received in direct proportion to what they gave. They’re paid an hourly rate for each hour their volunteers work.
Some folks volunteer more readily than others. Local judges occasionally assign volunteer hours to those who’ve run afoul of the law.
All of the money stays in Eagle County, which is several million dollars over 53 years. Most years they give away around $200,000.
Groups range from senior citizens to preschools, Boy Scouts to high school sports and dance teams, Eagle Valley Historical Society to the Eagle Valley Humane Society, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Hospice, Walking Mountains Science Center, Red Ribbon Project, SOS Outreach, Mountain Valley Horse Rescue, Small Champions, Vail Performing Arts Academy, Jack’s Place, Betty Ford Alpine Gardens and The Literacy Project.
“Those groups are expecting one more year of this money,” Eyrick told the school board during Monday’s meeting, lobbying for one more rummage sale they were expecting to hold next summer.
It began with $10
The Community Fund’s Maloit Park agreement with the school district started in 1993. The first lease was $10 because the school district wanted to support the cause, said Sandy Mutchler, the school district’s chief operating officer.
The school district went back and forth with Eagle Valley Community Fund board members, trying to find a way for one more year, Mutchler said.
They can’t do it in April. There’s no heat in the building, and they can’t turn water on in the building until it thaws.
August is too late for the school district to get the modular classrooms ready for the 2018-19 school year.
The lease requires the school district to give a 180-day notice. April 1 is the end.
“I’m so sad. We need to have a goodbye party,” Vi Brown said. “We’ll leave willingly and kindly, if we get a chance to wrap it up better.”
An anonymous donor offered to spend $10,000 to repair the roof on the Maloit Park building, but that’s simply not cost effective, Mutchler said.
The building is falling apart, mostly because the Community Fund rolls all the money back into community organizations, and not into the deteriorating building, said Kate Cocchiarella, school board president.
“This is a hard decision, and we’ve been thinking about this for a long time. Sometimes there are trade-offs and the trade-offs are challenging,” Cocchiarella said.
Out of options
The school district looked at putting the dozen or so modular classrooms at Battle Mountain High School and Homestake Peak and then on other parts of the school district’s Maloit Park property. The Maloit Park site next to the Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy is the best option, Mutchler said. There’s a gym and a computer lab, and the VSSA kitchen can handle the 200 Red Sandstone students.
“It’s a struggle trying to find a home for that many students,” Mutchler said.
It’s also a struggle to find a new home for the rummage sale, and it appears there isn’t one.
The modulars will be planted in Maloit Park while Red Sandstone Elementary School is being rebuilt. After that, VSSA is next on the school district’s bond project list. Red Sandstone students will move out of the modulars, into their new school, and VSSA students will move into the modulars.
The students cannot stay at Red Sandstone while crews are working on it. Asbestos was found in the building, and while it’s safe as long as it’s left alone, it won’t be left alone while work is being done, Cocchiarella said.
“I don’t have words for all the good the Community Fund has done, but I have to weigh that against the good of the kids,” said Tessa Kirchner, school board member.
The school board voted 6-1 to terminate the agreement.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
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It’s fitting that Eagle County is proceeding through its reopening phases of COVID-19 in an analogy to ski run difficulties — green to blue to black. Monday marks the transition from the green beginner phase to the blue intermediate phase.