Come Early, Stay Late, and Shop Both Days for the Best Bargains in Ouray County
OURAY – Every year, like a midsummer miracle, it happens: A swarm of industrious women descends upon the Ouray Community Center to sort through a sea of donated clothing, linens, furniture, books, toys, knick-knacks, electronics, gear, gadgets, and goodness-knows-what-kind-of gizmos, in preparation for the annual Woman’s Club of Ouray County’s Annual Rummage Sale.
This year’s Rummage Sale takes place Friday, June 21-Saturday, June 22, with doors opening Friday at 10 a.m., and Saturday at 9 a.m.
Outgoing WCOC President Vicki Caldwell predicts a line of early-bird shoppers snaking down the sidewalk both days. “Many people are downsizing this year and we will have some excellent furniture,” Caldwell promised.
Although nobody knows just when this Ouray tradition began, it was a well-established event by the early 1970s, with the local chapter of the American Association of University Women running the show. By the late 70s, the WCOC, a philanthropic and community service organization dating back to 1897, inherited the event.
The WCOC’s primary fundraiser, it rakes in anywhere from $7,000-$9,000, distributed throughout the county, in the form of grants, to over 25 nonprofit organizations.
“It takes a lot of quarters and dollar bills,” Caldwell said.
Caldwell herself shopped her first WCOC Rummage Sale in 1983. That was the year that she and her husband Steve fell in love with a little miner’s cabin on a lake in the picturesque Mineral Farms subdivision near Ouray, and transformed it into their second home.
“I got all my pots and pans and dishes at the rummage sale,” she recalled. For the past several years, as WCOC president, she’s led the monumental effort to mount the annual event.
“It’s like giving back what was done for me,” she said.”The inspiration for me is to see the people who come in and are struggling and have very little, and they are able to go out with winter clothes and shoes for their children.”
The rummage sale takes a whole year, and a tireless force of volunteers, to put together, with WCOC soliciting donations year-round from Montrose and Ouray counties, from furniture to clothing to books, that people are ready to cast off. “But it must be gently used,” Caldwell emphasized. “We don’t accept trash.”
Donated items are stashed in a cavernous storage barn, until it fills up, whereupon WCOC members open up their homes for storage.
The Wednesday morning before the sale, 16 men (mostly husbands of WCOC members, they’re fondly called the “Men’s Auxiliary”) and four trailers set out across the county to collect the stashed stuff and deliver it to the Ouray Community Center. (Community members are also welcome to bring in last-minute donations of their own on this day.)
Thursday morning, club members start pricing. Items must be priced low enough to be accessible to those in need, but high enough that WCOC has enough funds to fulfill its mission of distributing grants to local nonprofits. “It’s tough finding middle ground,” Caldwell said.
By Thursday afternoon, everything is neat, pretty and ready to go.
Once the sale gets underway, every club member has a role to play. “Our older members, in their 80s and 90s, contribute by sitting behind the cookie sales or guarding the steps and elevator” to police sales, Caldwell said.
True rummage sale die-hards look forward to the event all year long, and come back several times while it is underway, lining up Friday morning, and returning on Saturday for the half-price sale and then the 11th-hour dollar-bag sale (in which anything you can fit in a grocery bag costs just $1).
Along the way, there is to be had, from gag gifts to dress-up opportunities to good-natured scrapping about who grabs what. Something for everyone is on sale here, from bridal gowns to stuffed geese to Hollywood costumes. Once, there was a donated toilet – “And do you know, somebody bought it and they were going to put it out in their front yard and plant flowers in it,” Caldwell remembered.
Nothing is wasted: Donated items that don’t pass muster go into a free box outside the Community Center, and quickly disappear. Everything left over afterward the sale is donated to other organizations, including Second Chance Humane Society, Montrose Habitat ReStore, Montrose’s Salvation Army thrift store, MADA (Mexican American Development Association, Inc.) and Soles4Souls, a global not-for-profit institution that collects new and used shoes and clothes and distributes them to people in need in 125 different developing countries.
The key to the annual event’s success is its organization, Caldwell said. It also helps that the women are all focused on a common vision.
“Before the chaos, we start by reciting our Collect,” Caldwell explained. The Collect, a poem by Mary Stewart that’s faithfully recited by WCOC members every time they gather, concludes with these lines:
And may we strive to touch and to know
The real, common, human heart of us all.
An oh, Lord God, let us forget not
To be kind.
The Woman’s Club of Ouray County’s Annual Rummage Sale takes place Friday, June 21 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday, June 22 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Woman's Club members will also be selling lemonade and home-baked cookies to take home or to eat while shopping.
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