'Trashy' event benefits United Way, reduces carbon footprint

University Park, Pa. — Penn State and the Centre County United Way will get "trashy" for a good cause on May 31 when the seventh annual Trash to Treasure Sale takes over Beaver Stadium at University Park. Sale hours are 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The annual charity event consists of donated items from students that they do not care to transport home. The event's mission is to prevent usable items from winding up in a landfill; save the University the cost of disposing of the material; and give students an opportunity to develop a sense of philanthropy. All proceeds from the sale benefit the 39 human service agencies funded by the Centre County United Way, and is one of the kick-off events for the 2008 United Way campaign. Last year, the event raised $49,001 for United Way. Since its inception in 2001, the sale has raised in excess of $257,000 for United Way and has kept 350 tons of material out of landfills.

As in past years, early birds pay $5 admission from 7:30 to 9 a.m. for the privilege of cherrypicking the sale. From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., admission is free. Bargain hunters enter the stadium at Gate C and exit at Gate E.

This year the sale is a week later than usual due to the difficulty of finding enough volunteers to staff the event on a Memorial Day weekend. Carolyn Lambert, associate professor in the School of Hospitality Management and Janda Hankinson, director within Information Tech Services, coordinate the battalions of volunteers necessary to get the show on the road. In addition to the sorting and pricing, volunteers are on hand sale day to operate the sale – from manning cashiers to helping direct the 6,000 to 10,000 bargain hunters that begin lining up hours for before the gates open. It takes about 150 community and Penn State volunteers to see this project through.

In addition, about 100 high school students will roll and sort through a mountain of carpets and volunteers from the United Way's member agencies also come out to lend a hand. "We get a lot of mother-daughter, father-son teams here as part of school service projects," said Hankinson. 

Penn State's successful sale model has been copied by several universities including Notre Dame, University of Missouri and Michigan State. Penn State Altoona is planning its second annual Trash to Treasure sale for 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, June 7, in the Adler Athletic Complex. All proceeds from that event will benefit the United Way of Blair County.

This is a project that couldn't be completed without the help of Penn State's student population.

"Each year, Penn State students provide hope to those in need through their generous donations," said Al Matyasovsky, supervisor of Central Support Services in the Office of Physical Plant. "Our volunteers turn a mountain of donated goods into a wonderful event for our community. Without our students and our volunteers, there would be no sale." Matyasovsky co-chairs the Trash to Treasure sale along with David Manos, assistant director of housing.    

In addition to teaching students about philanthropy, the event helps to minimize Penn State's carbon footprint, according to Paul Ruskin, customer services coordinator in the Office of Physical Plant (OPP). "Everything here was transported to Centre County by gasoline," he said. "The reuse of these items maximizes the energy used to manufacture and transport these items to Centre County."

So far, OPP has collected about 55 tons of materials with more yet to come from the residence halls and unloaded it Beaver Stadium, where an army of volunteers is sorting and pricing the merchandise. To newcomers, the sale looks like a department store exploded all over Beaver Stadium's concourse. Yards and yards of tables are filled with name-brand jeans, fashionable women's clothing, shoes and athletic ware. Another area is filled with racks of coats and men's clothing. Walk a little farther along the concourse and find the housewares section. Here are donated appliances ranging from vacuum cleaners, microwaves, toasters, irons and rice cookers, dinnerware, bowls, crockery, etc. A wall of stackable storage units provides a backdrop for the proceedings. Move from housewares into home furnishing where electric fans, bedding, linens, furniture, carpets and televisions are set for sale.

As the sale has evolved over the years, the volunteers have gotten more savvy about presentation. A snazzy selection of women's scarves is strung from a rope and men's ties are pinned up next to a Jimi Hendrix flag.

The Best Loot Boutique will be stationed in one end of the sale area featuring brand new and pristine items. A quick peek under the protective tarp showed clothing and jackets with the sales tags still on them, some gaming equipment and possibly the find of sale  -- a brand new Hillary Clinton doll that danced and gyrated inside a box.

In addition to the merchandise students donate a variety of food items, to the tune of about eight tons, that will be distributed to local food banks. On a windy May morning, volunteer Connie Shroeder was unpacking the donations and sorting them by category. In addition to the boxes of canned goods, her donations were a snapshot of student living: boxes of mac and cheese, ramen noodles, tins of cocoa, tea, packets of instant oatmeal and bagged popcorn.

Books will be well represented at the sale. A donation has been made of several cases of "Open House With Katey and Ross Lehman," a collected volume of the couple's columns from the Centre Daily Times. The book details local town/gown history with wit and whimsy.

Merchandise is priced to move out, according to Pam Stellabotte, Centre County United Way's communications director. "Everything is very reasonably priced," she said. "It’s a win for the community because they can buy gently used items at good prices." Rugs are $3 each or three for $5, T-shirts are a $1, Jeans are $2, televisions are under $10 and fans range between $2 and $5.

In keeping with the sale's mission to keep material out the landfills, items not sold May 31 are offered to United Way partner and collaborating agencies to be used for office and client needs.
 
For photos of volunteers getting ready for the sale, check http://live.psu.edu/stilllife/1709 online.

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Last Updated November 18, 2010