Eagle Valley Community Fund passes out $144,000 to local nonprofits
EAGLE COUNTY — Volunteers for the annual Eagle Valley Community Fund Rummage Sale have more fun than humans should, but they have the most fun when they pass out checks.
Last week they gave away more than $144,000 to 65 local nonprofits. In the rummage sale’s 51 years, it has raised around $6 million for local nonprofits.
“It’s so much fun! I felt like Santa Claus. That’s the most fun, giving to the groups,” said Vi Brown, who, along with husband Byron Brown has run the event for most of its 51 years. “We have such wonderful nonprofits in the valley. They really do help us take care of each other.”
Among others, the Community Fund gave $8,359 to the local Veterans of Foreign Wars post.
“Of all the VFWs I know about it, the most compassionate is the one right here,” Vi Brown said.
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After running the community rummage sale for decades, Vi and Byron Brown are walking away. Nancy Nottingham will run it next year.
Vi Brown really does want to spend more time with her family.
“He’s my favorite husband,” Vi Brown said.
Vi Brown joked that since she’s retiring from the rummage sale, her new business venture is to give away free advice.
“You have to come up with a can of food for the Salvation Army. If you don’t like my advice, you get your can back,” Vi Brown said.
A couple months ago, Vi Brown was helping pack up the last bit of her last Eagle Valley Community Fund Rummage Sale. She was standing out front of the building in Minturn’s Maloit Park, letting her mind wander back over decades of stuff that rolled in and out of those doors, all the friends she made and all the good they did.
In the midst of that, her reverie was interrupted for a very good reason.
Someone drove up to her, rolled down the driver’s side window, handed Vi Brown a check for $30,000, and drove away.
The donor did it anonymously, and that’s how it will stay, Vi Brown said.
That anonymous donation made it possible to pay this year’s volunteers $9 an hour. The last few years, they’ve been paying volunteers $7 an hour.
“The donor likes the rummage sale and gave the donation to honor Byron and I,” Vi Brown said.
Vi Brown said all sorts of emotions rolled through her.
“I looked up to see if God was up there, and if the clouds were rolled back,” Vi said. “I felt that God gave me a miracle. I’m so glad we were picked.”
Friends become family
The rummage sale is a gathering of friends, Vi Brown said, some of whom she has been working with for more than 40 years.
“I’ve seen them and their kids grow up,” Vi Brown said. “People volunteer from all over the county. This turned out to be a good way for people to connect in the county.”
Back when Dowd Junction was down valley, it took about a week to get everything sorted, priced, cleaned and ready to sell.
Now it takes all summer.
For each hour volunteers work, they earn money for the charity or non-profit of their choice, usually having more fun than working people should.
The Eagle Valley Community Fund Rummage Sale started in 1964, just two years after Vail did.
Some local women were raising money to pay Vail’s first school master, Allen Brown, to teach their kids.
“They didn’t have any money to pay his wages,” Vi Brown said.
Eventually, Vi Brown and others dedicated all their hours to Friends of the School. They raised $50,000 to launch Vail’s first public school, a one-room affair above the clinic.