Near the open garage door to the Twin Lakes Church bus depot, Laurie Schlaepfer is doing some sorting as she stands watch over a sea of tables, desks and clothing racks—plus a few lamps tucked away in the corner.
As Schlaepfer and fellow organizers of the World’s Biggest Garage Sale ready for their fourth annual event, more clothes will be rolling in—not to mention books, CDs, DVDs, antiques, car parts, home decor, games and jewelry, and that’s not all.
“Tons of dishes and glassware and camping [equipment],”Schlaepfer adds. “There’s really not a category out there that we don’t get a lot of.”
The sale raises money for Second Harvest Food Bank, which distributes 8 million pounds of food for hungry families in Santa Cruz County each year. Sale co-director Schlaepfer, whose husband Rene serves as pastor for the church, says the spirit of giving is what it’s all about.
“In Acts of the Bible, it talks about early Christians selling their possessions so they could give to those in need. We’re keeping alive that 2,000-year-old tradition on a different scale. They never could have imagined how much stuff we have,” she says.
Last year’s Twin Lakes’ sale raised $38,000—its most ever—and Second Harvest spokesman Steve Bennett says it’s made a big difference. “What they’ve done over the past few years has had a huge impact. Last year they provided 150,000 meals alone,” he says.
How did the money buy so much food? $1, Bennett explains, is enough for Second Harvest to buy four meals, because the nonprofit buys food wholesale and gets reject, odd-looking produce that’s still fresh—the carrots might be a little crooked, but they’re still healthy.
The month of May isn’t the only time of year the church gives back. Twin Lakes Church also collects nonperishable foods around Christmas, but Bennett says a dollar goes a lot farther than a can of donated food. Twin Lakes has always gotten that.
“They understand the value of what we can do with dollar, based on the partnerships we’ve built up over the years,” Bennett says. “No one can buy apples for eight cents a pound like we can. Someone [else] can bring a bag of apples. We can buy a lot more.”
He adds that the spring is a great time for a Second Harvest fundraiser, not only because the rummage sale lines up with some spring cleaning. This season, he explains, doesn’t always make people think of their local food bank. That makes the event an even bigger deal.
“People always think of us during the holiday and that’s fantastic,” Bennett says. “But during this time of year these kids at school get a hot meal every day, and that might be the only good meal they get. So with school ending just a few months from now, that makes it all the more important.”
The sheer magnitude of the sale, Schlaepfer says, is difficult to explain or even capture in a photograph. This year she might send someone up on the roof with a camera to try and get the whole sale, which covers the parking lot and a couple of lawns, in one frame.
“With a church of this size, there are probably over 5,000 people associated with it, because our attendance on Sundays is over 3,000. So even if they all bring one shirt, that’s five or 6,000 shirts,” she says.
Donations started May 3 and go through May 15. Sometimes gems come from unexpected places. When a local woman with a history of hoarding passed away last year, her family on the East Coast contacted Twin Lakes to say they’d like to donate the woman’s entire storage unit. Many of those donations are in boxes unopened.
Twin Lakes may need the extra help to win back Second Harvest’s heavyweight award, which a local tech company took this past season. That award goes to the highest fundraiser each year.
“We have a very friendly rivalry with Plantronics,” Schlaepfer says with a grin. “They had it for a number of years. We took it away from them. They took it back from us this past year.”
“I’d put the emphasis on friendly, really,” Plantronics CEO Ken Kannappan says. “I have so much respect for Twin Lakes Church and for Rene and what they do. They are just phenomenal, and they’re an inspiration.”
INFO: 8 a.m.-2 p.m., Saturday, May 17, Twin Lakes Church, 2701 Cabrillo College Drive, Aptos, California. 465-3300. For more information about how to donate, visit tlc.org.