Volunteers search for site to save Eagle County Community Fund Rummage Sale
Almost as old as Vail
The Eagle Valley Community Fund 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, one of the original rummage sale organizers, 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. For years and years, Byron Brown, Vi’s husband, would drive all around the valley picking up rummage sale donations .
After chairing the event for 49 years, Brown retired. Tom Russo and Nottingham became co-chairs.
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. As they had for decades, each organization received in direct proportion to what they gave.
Anyone who would like to assist with the effort to continue the rummage sale can contact Rebecca Kanaly, executive director and CEO of United Way of Eagle River Valley at 303-994-2622 or ExecutiveDirector@UnitedWayEagle.org.
EAGLE — Lori Barnes, of the Vail Public Library, says the annual Eagle Valley Community Fund Rummage Sale has been described as one of the area’s crown jewels.
With billing like that, its pretty hard to let the event die, so a group of community members are working hard to make sure there is a 54th annual sale this summer.
They have a big task ahead and on Tuesday, Feb. 6, they reached out to the Eagle County commissioners for help in their efforts.
Rebecca Kanaly, executive director of the United Way of the Eagle River Valley, noted the rummage sale grew from the efforts of dedicated and long-serving volunteers.
“In 1978, they elected a president and a secretary and that was the last time anything changed,” said Kanaly. “They grew with our valley.”
Every summer for the past four decades, the sale has operated out of the former Battle Mountain High School building at Maloit Park just south of Minturn. While the sale was only open for two weekends, collections were dropped off at the site year ’round. When summer hit, volunteers went to work sorting and pricing items in preparation for the sale and by the time the doors opened, various rooms were packed to overflowing with donated items.
When the sale ended, the fun began. After the proceeds from the event were tallied, volunteers who worked the sale on behalf of various organizations collected checks for their efforts. The total amount distributed traditionally was around $170,000.
But last fall, Eagle County Schools, which owns the Maloit Park site, told the community fund it needs the location for about a dozen modular classrooms to accommodate 200 Red Sandstone Elementary School students while the Vail school is rebuilt beginning next summer.
In September, the school board voted to terminate the Eagle Valley Community Fund’s agreement to use the Maloit Park building for its annual rummage sale. By all indications, after 53 years, Eagle County’s longest-running fundraiser was over.
But a number of people in the county just couldn’t let it end.
Where to go?
Barnes said it wasn’t hard to find a cadre of people who wanted to see the sale continue.
“We started this cheerleader effort to save the rummage sale because we benefit from it,” she said.
Barnes said the new group of sale organizers know that things have changed for the event.
“We have had the hard conversation that it might not be the rummage sale as it has been for the last 50 years,” Barnes said.
But the new group hopes to keep the spirit of the sale alive. They also want to bring in some help, which is why United Way of Eagle River Valley is now involved.
“If we can help out where we can, I think we are doing our service to the community,” Kanaly said.
The nonprofit 501(c)(3) group that was previously associated with the rummage sale has been dissolved, but the organizers of the sale have told the new group they are willing to share their volunteer lists and give assistance to keep the event rolling.
“I would say it is practically turn-key,” Kanaly said. “We vow to retain all the lessons learned.”
There’s one big issue that has to be resolved before the sale can return next year — a location for the event.
“Everything is in place except the location,” Kanaly said. “The point of the discussion today is to get your ideas.”
What’s out there?
There are some community spaces that would be big enough to house the sale. The issue is those big spaces — the WECMRD Field House in Edwards, the Eagle Pool & Ice Rink, the Eagle River Center, for example — are already in use.
While it might be possible to book the sale for a couple of weekends at a location, the collection and organization of donated items presents another need.
“I think we are looking for a more finite time for people to drop off donations,” said Barnes. “We can’t have the old model of people dropping off all year long and (the late) Byron Brown doing pickups.”
Timing issues make it difficult for the Eagle River Center to be the location, noted the commissioners.
”The problem with your timeline is the Eagle County Fair & Rodeo is scheduled during the last week of July,” said Commissioner Kathy Chandler Henry. “The location would work, but it would be difficult because it is so highly used.”
Commissioner Jeanne McQueeney noted she has been a long-time volunteer and shopper at the sale and she suggested the volunteers reach out to the local Thrifty Shoppes to see if they would be interested in teaming up for the effort. “They do have access to warehouses and storage spaces.”
Kanaly said the most logical location for the sale is at a school building that is closed for the summer. McQueeney recommended that the sale organizers reach out to individual principals to float that idea.
Otherwise, the commissioners agreed to keep their ears open about possible sale locales.
Barnes noted that the sale means so much to people in the valley, it isn’t right to let the event go away.
“We are going to do it, we just don’t know where or when,” Barnes pledged.
The greater community is invited to join a Celebration of Pepi’s Life on Friday, Sept. 20, at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater.