Thursday, 11 August 2011

...round and round and round...

The humble Kiwi garage sale can take on many forms, and has been adapted to great use in Lyttelton: For about a year now Project Lyttelton has run a garage sale most Saturdays in an unpainted, unheated, badly lit breeze block garage, obviously nothing fancy, but workable. It is situated close to the craft market and the Farmer's market, so all three benefit from each other by drawing different crowds and more people overall.

Like everything in Lyttelton, the garage sale has been influenced by the earthquake. In the weeks and months after the earthquakes, when people had to tidy up their 'munted' houses, the garage sale often was at the receiving end of those clear-outs. Many people felt really good about getting rid of the accumulated 'stuff' that seems to accumulate in houses over time. There were a few weeks where so much stuff was donated, that we were unable to run a garage sale, because every square centimeter was filled with boxes, bags, furniture, suitcases, baskets and containers of donated goods.
After a few weeks of hectic activities, organising a small garden shed to store all new goods and sorting through all the donations, we have started trading again. We became quite ruthless with sorting out donations, partly because our space to display and store items is very limited. That meant that every week we were able to donate one small pick-up truck full of superfluous items to a local charity barn.

The garage sale is manned by Timebank volunteers. We have a very committed group of people who are regulars and a few 'newbies' now and then. The groups receiving the money are expected to have some volunteers present also. They can can lend a helping hand while talking to customers about the group or project they are involved in.

What do we sell? Like any garage sale it depends entirely what people drop off. in the weeks after the earthquake we received an amazing variety of goods: a local chef donated her cake tins in amazing shapes and sizes, from tiny to huge; there were local treasures such as 'Godley House' beer tankards (Godley was a historic homestead in Diamond Harbour, hosting a lovely restaurant and bar, which had to be destroyed after the earthquake) and cocktail shakers, and a whole set of Japanese paper fans, lanterns and paper umbrellas (from another restaurant?).
Everyone in Lyttelton lost at least some crockery and pottery in the earthquake and some unlucky people lost everything. The only op-shop and supermarket in Lyttelton were closed and trips to town were very nerve- wrecking in the weeks after the earthquake as roads were damaged, everyone was afraid of more severe aftershocks and most shops this side of Christchurch were closed. In a lucky stroke of fate, business at the garage sale roared, people being happy to buy locally and even discerning house-keepers bought 'second-best' pottery, because Lytteltonians had become fatalistic and realistic enough to know that more quakes were going to happen.
And what about the money generated? The first few garage sales were all fund-raisers for the Lyttelton Timebank. But after the earthquakes we decided to run the sales in aid of different community groups. Every individual and every charitable organisation in Lyttelton had suffered, either through loss of housing and work space or through people leaving or losing jobs, and through this being unable to continue helping out. The following groups have profited from the garage sale, and we are always looking for more local groups:
  •  Radio Volcano, a local community radio station
  • the Sea Scouts
  • The Plunket Toy Library and 
  • the newly established Lyttelton Petanque Club, a Gapfiller project.
  • the Lyttelton Community garden, 
  • the Lyttelton Youth House,
  • the Lyttelton eARThquake therapy initiative
 While there is always a Timebank volunteer at the sales, the groups receiving the money are expected to have some volunteers present also. They can can lend a helping hand as well as being able to talk to customers about the group or project they are involved in.

So not only the pre-loved goods go round and round the community, but also the money,- what could be better?

written by Bettina Evans

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