The rummage sale at St. Mark Evangelical Lutheran Church, Davenport, Iowa, provides more than an opportunity to buy a 25-cent vase. It supports those in need, makes neighbors aware of the church, and has resulted in more than $37,000 for church renovation and tuition for seminarians from the congregation.

The three-day event, which is held every October in the church gymnasium, takes a year to plan ( Throughout the year, donations are stored as they arrive: sporting goods and electronics; clothing and shoes; tools, garden and household items; antiques and collectibles; linens, including handmade quilts and crocheted items; books, DVDs and CDs; baby items; and toys. This year the sale, which raises more than $5,000 each year, is set for Oct. 15-17.

Erica Cunningham and Emily Martin have been beneficiaries of the sale’s efforts. They are the 16th and 17th seminarians from the congregation.

“The church needs to sponsor our seminary students, but our church doesn’t have money in a general fund to pull out tuition,” said Pat Thode, one of the sale’s coordinators. “Some churches might, but not ours.”

Coordinator Sue Nelson added, “Our customers tell us they look forward to coming each year. It’s a ton of work, but we have great fun and fellowship.”

A cadre of volunteers works behind the scenes. In a recent year when Nelson paused on the first day of the sale, she counted 30, not all of them members. A steady parade of food keeps the volunteers strong, and baked goods and candy are sold.

Where there is candy, there are also young people. “The teenagers — they’re our muscle,” Thode said. The sale is planned around days off from school so young people can help.

Not only is the sale good fellowship for all ages, it serves those who may not be able to afford to buy elsewhere. Additionally, Grace United Methodist Church members, who also donate to the St. Mark sale, get what they need for their Clothing Closet for those in need.

After the sale a shelter that assists women who are homeless or victims of violence receives dishware. Stuffed animals are saved for Christmas and given to those who visit St. Mark’s pantry or are distributed by the church’s quilters. After that, the Salvation Army picks up the remaining items.

Volunteer Rich Ricketts, who coordinates the pantry, gets most of the credit for the annual effort.

“Without him, this would not fly,” Thode said. “He has designated areas in the old church basement, so he sorts as it comes in. Without him, there’s no way this would work. … He’s just a lifesaver.”

Linda Cook

Linda Cook is a reporter and film critic for the Quad-City Times.

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