Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 32
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
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University Medical Center’s Auxiliary Gears Up for White Elephant Sale

Ellen Gilbert

“Some people just come for the toys,” said volunteer Rosemarie Hunninghake, as she surveyed the growing stock of clothing, books, kitchenware, and yes, Barbies, accumulating in the Herrontown Road storage facility being used by the University Medical Center at Princeton’s Auxiliary as they prepare for their annual White Elephant and Rummage Sale.

The event will take place on Saturday, October 11, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Sunday, October 12, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the doctor’s parking section of the garage at the Medical Center. During its long history the sale has been held in places as varied as the Italian-American Club on Terhune Road and the Princeton airport. The coming sale is the Auxiliary’s 90th, and “something special” will be done to mark the occasion, though publicity volunteer Fay Ventura isn’t saying what, just yet.

In the meantime, though, the focus of attention is the “barn,” or “receiving area,” where Auxiliary volunteers began accepting donations for the October event this last Saturday. They will continue to be there every Tuesday and Saturday through October 4, from 9 a.m. to noon. The pace picks up on September 2 when Tuesday hours are extended to include a 5 to 7 p.m. slot. “This place will be unbelievably packed,” said Claire Baxter, who has been doing volunteer work for the sale since 1991. Donations are tax-deductible, and contributors receive a blank form which they may fill in with the estimated value of the ice buckets, wine glasses, faux-fur jackets, mirrors, and other items they leave at the barn.

Bric-a-brac items, including Lenox china and other high-end decorative pieces, always “do well,” noted Ms. Hunninghake, a veteran of nearly 30 sales. With the advent of eBay, however, silver, which was very popular in the 1980s, has gone into decline, she reported. There are some treasures, to be sure. Kitchen utensils from the 1920s were a big draw one year, and a stamp album, which nobody really had time to to appraise, went for $20 at a recent sale.

While items like clothing and books are given a blanket price, volunteers use past experience to price the art, furniture, Christmas paraphernalia, and jewelry they sort through by the box load. On the weekend of the sale, items will be sold at their assigned prices on Saturday (there is no preview), and at half-price on Sunday morning. By noontime on Sunday, bargain hunters can scoop up whatever is left and fill a single bag to the brim for $3, or two bags for $5. Frugality rules, and the Auxiliary shares some of the towels and linens it receives with the storage barn’s Herrontown Road neighbor, SAVE, and donates items that it can’t sell to various rescue missions.

A list of “no’s” at the entrance to the barn discourages donors from bringing tires, mattresses, box springs, old computers, bowling balls, “any open containers,” old air conditioners, “most exercise equipment,” and anything with propane.

The Auxiliary has typically identified a particular area of the hospital to benefit from the sale, for five years at a time. Right now the maternal child health program is the focus. Previous years’ profits have gone to the Breast Health Center and the cardiac catheterization unit.

Other old hands working the sale include Ralph Higgins and Ida Toto, who are both 91, and “long timer” Bernice Frank.

The Auxiliary of the University Medical Center at Princeton is a non-profit group of volunteers who raise funds for UMCP through special events like the White Elephant Sale, “A November Night” dinner dance and auction, ArtFirst!, an international juried exhibition and sale featuring original work by professional artists with disabilities, and the Princeton HealthCare System 10K Race. The Fete, a popular springtime event, was cut back to alternate years since the University’s football stadium proved to be a less salutary location than its previous site, the playing fields along Washington Road.

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