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Trash to Treasure Sale has Junk for Everyone

by on May 29, 2013 6:25 AM

There is no greater example of the phrase “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” than what’s happening this Saturday at Beaver Stadium.

In it’s 13th year, the annual Trash to Treasure sale has become a mecca for bargain hunters. For an event that raises funds for local non-profits while keeping tons of unwanted items out of the landfill, there’s not much to dislike.

Pulling off an event like this takes months of preparation and a lot of heaving lifting. As the end of the semester approaches, Penn State Housing encourages students to sort their unwanted belongings into special collection bags and drop-off locations.

Students are asked to make sure items are in working condition and are reasonably clean. Any usable food, like canned goods, is donated to the State College Area Food Bank.

Beth Shaha, special events coordinator for the Centre County United Way, estimates that this year’s haul is somewhere around 65 tons of donated items. The 2012 event raised more than $60,000 for the Centre County United Way and its partners, while also saving money on landfill fees and labor costs.

After the items are collected and moved into a storage building near Lion Surplus, more than 500 community volunteers descend on the overstuffed blue collection bags to sort the loot. I joined them two weeks ago and was amazed, albeit a bit horrified, to see the amount of, well, junk.

But, that doesn’t mean that the sale is full of ratty cast-offs. During my two-hour stint of sorting donations, I saw at least a dozen spotless winter coats, countless designer jeans, and a handful of formal dresses.

I came across one donation bag that was stuffed with fourteen pairs of size 4 tuxedo pants, all black, and two dozen sequined tank tops. I hate to think what that poor girl will wear when she goes clubbing this summer, but I worry more about the guy who left behind his flannel one-piece footy-pajamas with the dancing monkey pattern. Some cold winter night, he’ll suffer from donor’s regret when he realizes that drop-down door is really convenient.

Before the Trash to Treasure program started in 2002, all of the leftover and unwanted items from the students ended up in a landfill. As anyone who has ever gone to the sale can attest to, the vast majority of this stuff is perfectly fine.

Keep in mind that when most students leave Penn State for the summer, they have to cram all of their belongings into one or two cars for the trip home.

And it’s not just clothes. When I graduated from college, I abandoned a perfectly good 4-foot tall refrigerator because I couldn’t get it in my parents’ car. This is a pretty common problem judging by all the mini-fridges I’ve seen at past sales.

If you are sending a kid off to college this fall, you could easily save hundreds of dollars by buying his dorm needs now and storing them for the summer. The same things that college students need when they move into the dorms are the same things they don’t need when they move out.

I saw a ton of box fans, coffee makers, irons, televisions, papasans, storage crates, and bed risers. I also saw a few black lights, still working, and an electric hair conditioning cap. The latter falls into the “ick” category, where it’s joined by bathing suits, pillow cases, and a pair of men’s jeans with a condom wrapper in the pocket.

But if you’re in the market for gently used clothing, electronics, or odd tchotkes, dress comfortably and be prepared to stand in long check out lines. Free admission starts at 9:00am, but the early bird admission of $5 gets you in at 7:30am.

Those first moments when the doors open are intense as bargain hunters check their manners at the door and try to outdo one another for the goods. Trust me on this — do not make eye contact with the people, mostly women, who take this event too seriously. You’ll know who they are when you see them.

And hands off the monkey pajamas — they’re mine.



Holly Swanson is a State College-based freelance writer. She is on Twitter @statecollegemom and can be reached via email at [email protected]
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