Vail Daily column: Thanks, Vi and Byron

Tom Russo
Valley Voices

One of the amazing things about the Vail Valley is the extent to which people help their neighbors here. We invite tens of thousands of people into our communities and we treat them like royalty, but when something happens to one of our own, we treat them like family. We do this in many ways, including making contributions to various charitable funds, and by volunteering our own time. Some of us have jobs and families and still volunteer. Some of us volunteer a few hours a week, and some give our time until there is not much more time to give.

Praise and Thanks

I would like to take this opportunity to heap a little praise on one couple who have given to the community for more than 50 years. While they have been thanked numerous times before, is it possible to thank people enough when they have given such a big part of their lives so selflessly? I think not. Accordingly, I want to remind you of the contributions made by Vi and Byron Brown to this valley.

The Minturn Community Rummage Sale was first held in 1964 above the Vail fire station and raised money first to pay teacher salaries and then to pay off the construction debt of the new (1968) Vail elementary school. In 1966, Vi and Byron started working on the nascent sale and then in 1974 Vi took over as president of the newly formed Eagle Valley Community Fund, whose purpose is to contribute the profits from the sale to more than 70 Eagle County nonprofits. The sale moved to its current home in the old school building in Minturn’s Maloit Park in 1993.

While Byron always did most of the heavy lifting (literally) picking up donations year round, and kept the school building from falling down, Vi was always out front, greeting everyone who came by to drop off goods, assigning volunteers to the myriad jobs, answering the numerous questions about what goes where and what should it be priced at and giving everyone hugs, lots of hugs. Not including what she did during the fall and winter, Vi would spend up to 1,000 hours making sure the sale was a success.

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Everyone’s a Winner

At the Rummage Sale, everyone’s a winner. Our donors get to empty their closets and cabinets a little, enjoy the gratification of helping others and get a tax deduction for their donation. Volunteers love going through all of the incoming goods, sometimes trying to figure out what things are and what they were used for, and occasionally raising an eyebrow over an unusual donation. Many goods are washed, minor repairs may be made and then everything is organized and priced. A little socializing goes on and everyone helps everyone else. Our volunteers not only have fun, they are able to designate each day which of the registered nonprofit groups they are supporting, because we allocate profits from the sale based on each volunteer hour worked. All this goes on six days a week for 15 weeks leading up to the sale.

Also benefiting are our many loyal and happy shoppers. Lining up as early as 5 a.m. on the first day of the sale, our shoppers stream into the building with their giant plastic bags bent on finding the gems hidden within the 14 rooms of goods or back behind the building. As the sun rises higher in the sky, the shoppers who merely want amazing values, or who want to bid on the silent auction items, begin to stream into the building. On the second weekend, everything is half price or better.

It is my hope and expectation that, while Vi and Byron won’t be with us in Minturn this summer, most, if not all, of our amazing room leaders will return to do what many of them have been doing for decades. Fortunately for the community, I will be working with Nancy Nottingham, my co-president, who herself has been giving selflessly as vice president of the fund for the past 42 years.

We will always be grateful to Vi and Byron for their substantial contributions to the sale, and the community will always appreciate the $6 million that was given to nonprofits during their tenure, but the future success of the Rummage Sale now rests on your shoulders. The sale is a community asset; that is, it is of, by and for the people who live in Eagle County. This means that we need you to participate by donating clean usable goods, shopping and volunteering. We look forward to the community’s continued support (and don’t forget to thank Vi and Byron again when you see them).

Those wishing to make donations may drop them off at the Eagle Valley Community Fund in Maloit Park anytime. For furniture and large pick-ups please call 970-845-7070. The sale is the third and fourth weekend in August (Aug. 20, 21, 27 and 28 this year). Further information is available by calling 970-827-9426 or visiting our website at

Along with Nancy Nottingham, Tom Russo is co-president of the Eagle Valley Community Fund, which runs the Minturn Community Rummage Sale.

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