United Way's Trash to Treasure Event Ready, Set to Go! Bargain Hunters Ready to Shop 'til They Drop
May 31, 2013 3:30 PM
by Shawn Christ
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It only took one visit to the first Trash to Treasure event in 2001 to hook Janda Hankinson.

“I shopped the first one and worked the rest,” the volunteer coordinator says about her involvement with the event, which occurs tomorrow at Penn State's Beaver Stadium. “I just kept getting more and more sucked into it. It’s amazing how much it’s grown.”

The Trash to Treasure sale was started by the Centre County United Way 11 years ago. Megan Evans, the United Way's communications coordinator, says the event began as a way to reduce the amount of student waste left in the dorms at the end of every school year.

All that stuff ended up being shipped off to a landfill. Instead, those gently-used items are now sold off in what is essentially a gigantic yard sale. The proceeds benefit the Centre County United Way.

Over the years, more than 683 tons of stuff has been donated by students moving out of residence halls. The United Way has raised over $550,000. Furniture, clothing, cleaning products, lamps, electronics and enough carpet to cover the field of Beaver Stadium are just some of the items available for sale.

“It’s a win-win-win situation all the way around,” Evans says. “I think what I like most about it is the whole philosophy of it. It solves so many things on so many different levels.”

According to Evans the event not only strengthens the relationship between Penn State and the community, but also helps the environment by re-purposing tons of usable goods.

The event is free to the public starting at 9 a.m. However, for those who just can't wait, a $5 early bird admission fee will get them inside the gates at 7:30 a.m.

Bargain hunters usually begin lining up at around 4:30 a.m. and by the time the gates open, there is a huge crowd ready to shop 'til they drop. Shoppers are given a “treasure map” to guide them through the sale and let them know where certain items are located.

Televisions and furniture are always popular items for the early crowd, Hankinson says. This year 60 packs of bedding with Penn State logos were donated to the event. Online they can sell for $100. At Trash to Treasure – only 30 bucks.

And even the most unique and interesting items find a home at the sale. Evans says, at last year’s event, someone working on a Sasquatch documentary gladly purchased a large costume resembling the beast.

“It’s neat to ask people in line what they’re looking for,” Evans says.

Most of the smaller items are priced at $3, but for $15, shoppers will be allowed to fill up a grocery tote bag with items like hairdryers, scarves, sunglasses or any other smaller goods that fit.

Inside Gate C, a “Best Loot” section is set up for more expensive items like sporting goods, iPods and cameras. Weight machines signed by Penn State Football Strength and Training Coach Craig Fitzgerald will be raffled off. Coach Fitzgerald will be there in person to "motivate" early morning shoppers.

Frank Pope, a United Way volunteer, likens the month-long preparation to opening a department store.

“You just can’t imagine what goes into it,” Pope said while organizing athletic shoes on Friday. During May, close to 500 people volunteer their time to help pick up, sort, price, deliver, set up and check out items.

Items not sold at the event still have the chance to become treasure. Pope remembers packing up coats that were going to be given to the Salvation Army a couple of years ago after they weren’t sold at the event.

“And I just got goosebumps thinking about the people who would be wearing these in the winter,” he says. “Everything’s put to use.”

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