By Callie Hietala
Bargain hunters can get their fill of great deals Saturday, with housewares, toys, clothes, décor, and even COVID-19 vaccines all be available at the Martinsville-Henry County Charity League’s annual Bargain Fair. Proceeds will benefit the children of the community.
Though the league has been organizing the Bargain Fair for more than 50 years, this is the second time the group has hosted a spring event. Bargain Fair co-chairman Sharon Mills said until 2021, the event was only held once each year, in the fall.
“Last year was our very first spring Bargain Fair, and it went over very well, so we’re going to make it an annual event,” Mills said.
She said the fall event, which had restrictions on the number of people who could enter due to the pandemic, welcomed an estimated 500 people and raised around $8,000.
“We have had over 1,000 people that have come in before,” she said. “I think now that we’re starting to get into this post-pandemic (time), we’ll start to see that size group come in again.”
The addition of a spring event was made possible in large part by the building, located at 242 Franklin Street in Martinsville, provided to the group at “a very affordable rate” by Lester Properties. This allowed the group to store items in one location year-round.
“Before what we had to do was store all of the donations that would come to us either in our own homes or we had a warehouse we would go to,” Mills said. “We would have to pack everything up a day or two before the Bargain Fair and take it to a space that was being rented or provided to us and we would have to set everything up. Then we would have to completely clear out that space” once the event was over.
Mills said volunteers took nearly a full week off from work to move everything into that year’s venue and set it all up in time, but “now we’ve actually got a location to call ours.”
Having a year-round location also has allowed league members and other volunteers to spend more time organizing items ahead of the fair, making it even easier for shoppers to find what they need.
“We are even better organized than we were in the fall,” Mills said. “We got a fantastic donation of additional shelves to be able to put our shoes up on shelves.” In the spirit of greater organization, the shoes also are arranged by size.
“We’ve never been able to do that before,” Mills said. “When you’re trying to take a whole warehouse of stuff and put it out in a week, it’s almost impossible to have it out and sized.”
Mills said items in the spring sale include tables, sofas, chairs, desks, holiday décor, athletic wear and equipment, linens, housewares, small appliances, wine glasses, coffee mugs, serving ware, children’s toys and games, and clothing. And that is just a sampling of what will be available.
Even with a year-round facility making some aspects of the event easier, Mills said league members and other volunteers still put a good deal of work into making the Bargain Fair happen.
“Every (Charity League) member is required to provide at least six hours of service,” Mills explained. “Additional committees are assigned more time than that. Bargain Fair co-chairs put in about 150 hours each, working specifically with the fair.”
Mills’ co-chairman for this year’s even is Tiffany Morton.
She said many other members put in additional hours as well, even just working in the warehouse.
“We have a lot of additional time beyond that, going out to do property pickups for people who might want to donate a sofa and don’t know how to get it to us. We beg and plead for friends with pickup trucks,” she said with a laugh.
The league hosts a public drop-off day each month for the community to bring items in to donate to the Bargain Fair.
Mills said the league, which consists of around 30 women, has worked with a number of other organizations “that have come in and helped us out, donating their time and resources to be able to pull this off.”
Those organizations include the National Society of Black Engineers, high school Beta Club students, community college students, and members of a local service fraternity.
Around 40 volunteers will be on hand on Saturday alone, Mills said, and added that she couldn’t even begin to estimate how many people have helped with the event in various ways between the end of the fall fair and this weekend.
“This is a huge undertaking,” she said.
All the time, effort, and volunteer hours put into the fair ultimately benefit area youth. Funds raised at the Bargain Fair support the Charity League’s many efforts, including scholarships for high school seniors.
“We also help out with 4-H camp,” she said. “We help with children in the school system who are identified as needing” certain items such as shoes, clothing, and bedding. “We will provide those items to (children) as needed,” Mills explained.
Other programs sponsored by the organization include the Touch A Truck program. Held annually at the Martinsville Speedway, the event gives children a safe environment to interact with and learn about different types of vehicles they might see on the road, including fire trucks, garbage trucks, construction vehicles, and ambulances.
The league’s dedication to helping the community will extend beyond raising funds to support area children this year. The women of the Charity League are also helping to make COVID-19 vaccines available to shoppers who want either a first shot or a booster.
Mills said appointments are not needed to receive a vaccination, which are provided at no cost. Vaccinations also will be available at the league’s upcoming Spring Fling on April 30, courtesy of a partnership with the health department, public safety, the Coalition for Health and Wellness, and United Way.
Mills said the fair is a wonderful opportunity to shop while keeping prices low, a benefit that is particularly needed with ongoing rising costs.
“You still need to have clothing for your children or you might like to have a new wardrobe without it costing an arm and a leg,” she said. “With current gas prices and food prices, you need to save where you can and this is a great place to do that.”
The Martinsville-Henry County Charity League’s Spring Bargain Fair will take place Saturday, April 2 from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. at 242 Franklin Street in Martinsville. Purchases can be made with cash or card. To learn more about the Charity League and the work it does to help children in the community or to make a donation, visit charityleague.org.