By Callie Hietala
In search of bargains? Look no further than the Charity League’s Fall Bargain Fair.
The warehouse, at 242 Franklin Street in Martinsville, is practically bursting at the seams with bargains, just waiting for the doors to open on Saturday, October 2 from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m.
Purchases can be made with cash or card.
“This is one of the biggest sales we’ve had in a while,” said Kaitlin Martin, first vice-president of the organization, referencing both the number and the quality of items available for shoppers to browse and buy. Usually held just once a year, last year COVID forced the league to reevaluate and, in 2021, they moved to a twice-yearly model, one fair in the spring and one in the fall.
The selection this year is huge. Walking into the spacious warehouse, which the group gets at a reduced rate from Lester Properties, there are racks of clothes and shelves loaded with objects as far as the eye can see.
“All of the items inside of this warehouse right now are donations,” chairman Sharon Mills said. Leading up to the fair, the organization solicits donations of items from club members, private individuals, and public institutions. The space is well-stocked with everything from brand-name purses with the original purchase tags intact, new and lightly-used clothing for everyone from young children to adults, games, toys, glassware, linens, furniture, DVDs, CDs, holiday décor, electronics, books, and even exercise equipment. There’s even a car top carrier, in great condition, sitting in a corner, priced and ready to sell.
Even the display stands are donated. The local division of WestRock, located in Ridgeway, donated 80 rolling shelves to the organization, and EMI Recycling in Bassett helped with clothing display racks and even hangers.
“They helped us out tremendously,” Mills said.
Everything on the racks and shelves is priced to sell. Most items range anywhere from $1 to $10, with a few specially-priced items going for a higher cost. At the end of the day, Martin said the league has a bag sale to help empty out the last of the year’s inventory.
“This is where I stock up for Christmastime,” said Martin, who is mother to a 9-year-old and a newborn and says her family lives from paycheck to paycheck. “When I can pay a dollar or a couple of dollars for items and get my children nice things but not have to break the bank, it significantly helps us.”
Martin recalled her very first Bargain Fair several years ago when a child came in with his parents. He had holes in the soles of his shoes. Later, Martin found him looking at pairs of name-brand shoes, trying to decide on one.
“They’re your size,” Martin told the boy, encouraging him to pick more than one pair. “We can’t afford it,” he replied. “Buddy, they’re only a dollar,” Martin told the child. He started to cry. “Can I put them on?” he asked her. Martin remembered that she saw him not long afterward, heading to the checkout carrying several pairs of shoes to bring home.
“I think it hits you when you realized that’s going on here in our town,” she said. “This little child didn’t even have shoes, and he’s sitting here crying over a pair of used shoes and so appreciative. That’s when it hit home with me what we’re doing, how this really helps people,” she said.
Mills said the first year helping with fair made her fall in love with the event and the organization.
“I found out what these ladies are capable of doing, how hard they’re working and how determined they art and I said ‘yeah, I’ve gotta be a part of this group,’” she said.
Mills, who was already volunteering her time at the Henry County Food Pantry and also is a foster parent, initially joined the Charity League because she saw an opportunity to help serve the community. Working with the parallel organizations, “I know a lot of the needs in the community.” With the league, she saw an opportunity to maximize her efforts, working with a group that builds up partnerships with other organizations to help meet the needs of the underserved. “It was a perfect fit. I love it.”
Mills said the fair usually attracts between 500 to 1,000 shoppers over the course of the single-day event. It is the league’s largest annual fundraiser, with all proceeds funding the organization’s annual charitable efforts. Founded in 1931, the League is a women’s organization whose focus is supporting children in the community.
This support includes scholarships for everything from 4-H camp to college; helping children explore fine arts through partnerships with Piedmont Arts, Missoula Children’s Theatre, and the Patriot Players; and programs like Touch A Truck and Christmas Cheer.
With Christmas Cheer, the league operates behind the scenes, helping parents of children who have aged out of traditional charitable holiday gifting programs ensure there are presents under the tree on Christmas morning, Martin said. The organization buys some necessities, like toothbrushes, but also age-appropriate toys, which parents in need can pick up as gifts for their children for the holidays.
The popular Touch A Truck event, which takes place at the Martinsville Speedway, gives children a safe environment to interact with and learn about different types of emergency vehicles they may see on the road, including fire trucks, ambulances, garbage trucks, and construction vehicles.
Mills said women in the league “have a real desire to see this community do well.” The funds raised with the Bargain Fair help this group of service-minded women continue to carry out their mission.
To learn more about the Charity League and its work, or to donate, visit charityleague.org.