July 5, 2007
By JOANN KLIMKIEWICZ, Courant Staff Writer
Black-tie benefits, with their posh guest lists and steep ticket prices, do a nice job of pulling in charitable donations. This Loretta Dyson knew.
"But they're a little bit pricey for plain folks like me," says Dyson. "I thought, `How about something that would appeal to just about anybody and everybody?'"
She thought about it and thought some more. And then it came to her.
A good bargain. Who doesn't love a good bargain?
And so was born the Tabor House Tag Sale, a massive annual event Dyson helped launch 13 years ago to raise funds for local men and women living with HIV/AIDS.
From the first tag sale's $2,000 profit to last year's record $10,000, every dollar and dime has gone straight to Tabor House, one of the state's first AIDS residences. Proceeds from this year's event, scheduled July 13 and 14 at the convent of the Sisters of St. Joseph at 27 Park Road in West Hartford, will also benefit AIDS Project Hartford.
"You simply cannot lose on a tag sale," Dyson says of the glories of raising funds by selling other people's gently-used doo-dads, housewares, furniture and jewelry. What items don't get sold are donated to local organizations or stored for sale the following year.
The way Dyson sees it, everybody wins. Area folks have a good excuse to do that long-delayed sweep of their homes. And the nonprofit gets an annual financial boost, especially needed in years like this, which saw cutbacks in state funding.
But over the years, she says, organizers have also come to see that the sale ministers to the community in another unexpected way: It's serving Hartford's poor, including many new immigrants, who come each year looking for low-priced items to furnish their homes and start new lives.
"It's just amazing how many people you touch in different ways, that are surprising to you," says Dyson, a longtime Tabor House volunteer and retired high school guidance counselor. "We're really reaching out to as many people as we can."
In the absence of anyone ¡ who tracks such things, Dyson is confident Tabor House lays claim as the largest tag sale in Central Connecticut.
Next week's sale will again see the ground floor hall of the convent of the Sisters of St. Joseph filled to the seams with items donated from local residents and businesses alike. More than 500 bargain-hunters are expected to pick through new and used furniture, cookware, hobby supplies, luggage and toys.
Raffle items have also been donated from the Boston Red Sox, Hartford Stage and the Connecticut Sun basketball team, among many others.
"It really takes a community to put on an event like this," says David Dyson, Loretta's son and a tag sale co-chairman. All told, nearly 100 volunteers sort, load, unpack and man the tables. Some use their own vacation time to join the weeklong setup.
"A lot of people have a lot of fun doing this," says David Dyson. "If you're going to volunteer, it can be a lot worse than setting up a tag sale."
Still, mounting the sale is a lot of work, from logistical planning to donation-seeking to post-sale cleanup. And Dyson finds himself collecting sellable items year-round, stocking them in the backyard basement of his West Hartford home.
"We do this," he says, "because we want these people ... to at least know they'll have a home to go to and have a loving family that will look after them.
"We do it for people like my brother," he says.
Bill Dyson died of AIDS in 1989. He was living in London at the time. And while his family visited as often as they could, and while he found a sturdy group of British friends to lean on, "a lot of people weren't very welcoming to him," recalls David.
Volunteering with Tabor House is a way for the family to make sure sons and daughters just like Bill are welcome, and do have a family and a place to call home.
This year, David Dyson would love the sale to net another record.
"We'd like to see $11,000," he says. His mother, on the other hand, isn't one for such goals.
"We rejoice," she says, "at whatever we can take in."
The 13th annual Tabor Tag Sale will be held at the convent of the Sisters of St. Joseph, 27 Park Road, West Hartford. It begins Friday, July 13, from 4 to 8 p.m., with $1 admission. Saturday, July 14, is free, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sale organizers are still seeking volunteers and clean, usable donations. Contact David Dyson at email@example.com or by phone at 860-805-9239.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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