‘More blessed to give than receive’

Lake Elmo church holds garage sale with no price tags Saturday

LAKE ELMO — River Valley Christian Church could be considered an expert in the art of giving. For 17 years, the church has gathered donations from their congregation to fill their church and hold a garage sale without price tags called The Give.

“I wasn’t part of the church at the time they started it, but I believe that the conversation involved, ‘We’ve got stuff, everybody’s got stuff. Let’s raise some money with a church garage sale.’ But our senior pastor at the time said, ‘You know, the Bible said it’s more blessed to give than receive, so let’s gather our stuff and not charge anything for it’,” said River Valley Pastor Greg Hamm.

The idea became a success with people lining up outside the church before doors opened on the day of The Give.

Diana Hackett has helped organize the event for 12 of the 17 years it’s been held.
“It’s really amazing how much stuff God provides, We have a 15-by-10 or 15-foot space and it’s almost full of stuff. Just 10 minutes ago, we had a couple of people stop by with a pick up and van full of stuff,” Hackett said Tuesday.

The event is open to everyone, although the church hopes to help those in need with their event. There have been a couple of years that the church has expanded The Give to east St. Paul.

“We invite a lot of agencies that work with people in need to make sure they know about it. Like the Bible said, if you have two coats, give one to the guy who doesn’t have one,” Hamm said.

But Hamm noted that anyone from the area can come, look and take what they need free. Donations are also tax deductible.

Gently-used items are organized in the church foyer and sanctuary.

“The funny thing is that most of the people who bring stuff in are our congregation members who talk to their neighbors and ask if they’d like to take some of their items in,” Hamm said. “It’s a truly word of mouth operation If we advertised and said hey everyone bring in your stuff that would be really overwhelming.”

Typical items that can be found at The Give include:

  •  Clothing of all types and sizes
  •  Housewares and working small appliances
  •  Furniture in good condition
  •  Linens of all types
  • Toys, games, books
  • Baby items, clothing and accessories
  • Bicycles and sporting good in working condition
  • CDs, DVDs, cassette and video tapes.

“We take everything except exercise equipment. Folks are on their own when it comes to that.” Hackett said. “By 10:30 in the morning on the day of the event, there are already empty tables and if the weather is nice, we could have 75 or 100 people waiting. It never ceases to amaze me how big our God is.”

A lot of planning goes into the day, according to Hackett. She said she spends a lot of time looking at department store layouts to find new ways to display the donated merchandise. Reminders go out to the congregation to save their stuff for The Give at the start of summer. She added that the event is becoming more well-known in the Lake Elmo and Stillwater area and that Pastor Hamm has told her that people start calling to see if the annual event is taking place early in the summer. Any leftover items are donated to Sharing and Caring Hands, Goodwill or whatever organization is laying on their hearts said Hackett. She also said she’s continually impressed by the turn out.

“I’m just in awe of how big our God is. We’ve been doing this for 17 years, and we’re not a very big church. There’s 180 people in our congregation and 175 people attending, including the kids, is a good Sunday for us. I can’t believe how much stuff there is with just us and our sphere of influence. I am just flabbergasted every year. People always come and leave with just what they need,” Hackett said. “Four or five years ago, I had a woman tell me that she had just come through a shelter, set up her new apartment and had just gotten a new job. She told me, ‘I just want to let you know that the clothes here are perfect for my job.’ Stories like that are what keep us doing this. I don’t think I’ve heard any negative comments about it.”

The Give is 9 a.m. to noon Saturday. Hackett said that those who want to donate items can bring their things to River Valley Christian Church through 9 p.m. Friday. The church is at 5900 Lake Elmo Ave. North just west of Stillwater.

Contact Avery Cropp at [email protected]