Great South Side Sale Organizers Hope to Top Last Year's Record-Setting Haul

In search of a pair of Tory Burch sandals? A drone? A Martin guitar? A set of mid-century modern chairs?

Look no further than the upcoming Great South Side Sale, which will mark its 20th year this Saturday, June 2.  The sale begins at 10 a.m. and takes place under a giant tent at the corner of Fourth Street and Buchanan. Each year, it welcomes thousands of shoppers who begin lining up at dawn for a chance to snap up a wide array of quality items at bargain prices. Last year’s tally of $21,000 raised was the largest ever, and 100 percent of it was funneled back into the community for programming to benefit local schoolchildren, including the University’s successful Homework Clubs, organizers say.

The brainchild of Lehigh professor Kim Carrell-Smith and John Smith, the sale offers up usable items that were discarded by departing Lehigh students. The couple devised the plan to sort, price and sell the items at a one-day sale and the results exceeded their expectations. That initial drive netted $500 for the South Bethlehem Neighborhood Center. In 2001, Assistant Dean and Director of Community Service Carolina Hernandez made the project one of her office’s biggest events of the year and helped direct more volunteers to the cause.

This year, Hernandez said that more than 125 volunteers have already logged close to 2,000 hours sorting and organizing the items in Lamberton Hall. In preparation for the sale, everything will be loaded into four 24-foot trucks, one 16-foot truck and an additional cargo van.

“It’s the most that we’ve ever collected,” said Hernandez. “We’re spilling out of this space with all the additional furniture we’ve had donated this year. It’s incredible.”

A Concerted Effort to Address a Neighborhood Nuisance

The additional inventory grew out a concerted effort between the City of Bethlehem, Lehigh staff, and landlords in the neighborhoods surrounding the university. Representatives from the city’s health, housing and parking areas joined with Hernandez and Lehigh’s Assistant Vice President of Community and Regional Affairs Adrienne Washington to discuss the nuisance of discarded household goods when the students leave in late May.

Advance mailings went out the students, encouraging them to “donate it-don’t-dump-it,” followed up by emails and in-person house calls by Carrell-Smith, her husband, graduate assistant Amber Hutchinson and a couple of student volunteers on graduation day. As a result, the number of items that clogged sidewalks outside the rented student homes was greatly reduced, and the number of items offered up for the sale was significantly increased.

“We aimed a lot of our efforts at the parents, who were very excited that we were doing this and encouraged their students to donate what they couldn’t get home,” Carrell-Smith said. “So we were able to call the Community Service Office student staffers and they would swoop in with a truck and whisk it away. We were able to collect so much more this year, and of such better quality.”

Bargain hunters will find a full set of living room furniture–including a sofa, loveseat and armchair–along with a set of four mid-century modern chairs that are currently selling for $2,800 on online shopping sites.

Lehigh staff and faculty also contributed items, and Carrell-Smith said the sale would also feature items donated from “household clean-outs” from older faculty and staff members who were helping parents transition to new, smaller homes.

“We have full sets of china and crystal, super-high-end children’s clothing and toys, a lot of dressers, bed frames, fans, mirrors, a million plastic drawers, a bazillion lamps and a few surprises, too,” she said.

On Saturday morning, roughly 100 Lehigh student, staff and faculty volunteers will work the sale, which will also include nearly new clothing, artwork, designer handbags, household goods, sporting equipment, lamps, bicycles, linens, musical instruments and miscellaneous items. Hernandez notes that all textbooks will go to the First Generation Library at Lehigh, which will allow first-gen students to access the books free of charge.

Photos by Christa Neu

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