Trash and Treasure

Annual giant garage sale benefits local charities

The Inner Wheel Club of Baton Rouge stresses the “co” in co-chairwoman of the annual “Attic Trash and Treasure Sale.”

The sale’s co-chairwoman is a member of the charity that receives the most money from the sale.

This year, Linda Montagnino, executive director of Brave Heart — Children in Need, is the charity co-chairwoman. Kaye Carroll is the Inner Wheel co-chair.

“Once you’ve served as co-chair, you know the sale from the ground up,” said Ann-Felice Fourrier, last year’s charity co-chair representing Greater Baton Rouge Hope Academy.

“You begin picking up donated items as soon as that year’s sale is over. You don’t know if you’re going to have a place to hold the next year’s sale or not. It’s scary.”

Then, it takes six to eight weeks to set up the sale as a small army of volunteers and paid workers arrive at the sale site.

This year’s giant garage sale, which has raised more than $1.5 million for charity since 1991, will be held Friday through Sunday at an 86,000-square-foot, former Wal-Mart at the intersection of Plank and Groom roads in Baker.

This year’s primary charity is Brave Heart — Children in Need, a nonprofit founded in 2004 to ease the trauma of children removed from their homes because of abuse and neglect.

“We were the second charity last year,” said Montagnino. “I was determined we’d be the first charity this year.”

This year’s other charities are St. Vincent de Paul, Rotary Foundation Scholarship Fund, Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center, Families Helping Families, The Hospice of Baton Rouge, The JL Foundation, Louisiana Resource Center for Educators, THRIVE Baton Rouge and Young Leaders Academy of Baton Rouge.

“It’s a yearlong thing,” said Karen Zobrist, Inner Wheel’s treasurer and a veteran of three sales.

The sale is held in March in the hopes of cool weather. To hold down overhead, Inner Wheel’s sale buildings aren’t heated or air conditioned.

The first two weeks the sales crew was in its new building, it used portable toilets and drank bottled water.

The sale moves this year from 30,000 square feet at Mervyn’s in Cortana Mall to the former Baker Wal-Mart.

Food is donated each work day for as many as 80 workers.

“Our cook, Cynthia Duvieilh, took dishes home to wash,” Carroll said.

“Until mid-January, we didn’t have a location,” said Beverly Turner, Inner Wheel’s president. “We had 22 large storage units and a pod FULL of donated items.”

The charity co-chairwoman is responsible for seeing that items are picked up from donors into early February, “three or four times a month to fill the storage units for the sale,” Montagnino said.

The sales have a few big ticket items, things such as this year’s blue topaz pendant with 18K setting and 14K chain ($650), a signed Caroline Durieux print ($750) and a first edition of “A Confederacy of Dunces” minus the dust jacket ($1,000), but the 86,000-square-foot sales floor is a garage sale gone wild.

As in past years, there’ll be no computer gear at this year’s sale. The sale’s organizers have debated whether or not to accept used computers.

There’s children’s clothing for the first time in years. About one-third of the floor space is given over to furniture.

“We’re accepting credit cards for the first time,” said Carroll.

The sales floor is like a small town’s department store/junk shop: cameras, telescopes, table lamps, movie screens, VHS tapes and players, safes, vacuums, blenders, televisions, blenders, microwaves, postal scales, floor fans, bottles of ink, dry eraser boards, wrapping paper, analog radios, jewelry, men’s and women’s clothing, in-line skates, sewing machines, figurines, Rockwell’s Main Street villages, snow globes, books, yard equipment, fishing gear, sports trophies, a portrait of former Louisiana governor John McKeithen.