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Fox Chapel Presbyterian Church Harvest Fair raises money to benefit missions, charities

| Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Jan Pakler | for The Herald
Fox Chapel Presbyterian Church volunteers Ann Stone and Judy Juselius begin the long process of setting up donated items to be sold at the annual fall festival.

Organizers of the Fox Chapel Presbyterian Church Harvest Fair make this old saying ring true: “One person's trash is another person's treasure.”

The two-day sale turns donations into cash — $50,000 each year — for charities such as Helping Hands - Healing Hearts, Sojourner House and Aspinwall Meals on Wheels.

“One hundred percent of the money that we raise goes to missions and charities,” volunteer Carol Huff said. “It's incredible that we're able to do this every year.”

Shoppers can scout for bargains from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Oct. 4 and 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Oct. 5 at the church on Fox Chapel Road.

There is a $5 admission fee on opening night.

“There will be a line of people waiting around the church to get in,” said Judy Juselius, the sale director.

Initiated by the Presbyterian Women, the Harvest Fair began in the 1960s to inspire outreach and mission work. Juselius said she took charge of the event shortly after because it stirred a passion in her.

“It is so important, the work here,” she said, standing amid a mountain of stuffed animals and board games that had yet to be sorted for the children's sale area.

“Everyone wins. People get deals, and we turn the money around and send it back out the door to take care of those that have the least.”

In recent years, money has been split among local groups such as the Sharpsburg Food Pantry, Hosanna Industries and East Liberty Family Health Center.

Help is sent overseas as well. Last year, money was shipped to buy school supplies for a kindergarten class in Kirkuk, Iraq.

Beginning just after Easter, Huff said, an army of volunteers opens the church doors for collections.

“We never know what we're going to get,” she said, pointing to two ornate wrought iron birdcages. “Like these. Not everyone needs one, but you can find neat stuff.”

Tens of thousands of items stream through the doors for storage in the church basement. From furniture and furs to dishes, lamps, artwork and more, the items are cleaned, repaired if needed and organized into one of a dozen staging areas.

“Sometimes, we make silk purses out of sow's ears,” Juselius said. “But other things are just a find.

“We get beautiful old linens and upscale clothing. We just got a Burberry raincoat in.”

Volunteers agreed that shoppers will find just about anything their heart desires. There's jewelry, china, handbags, holiday décor and sports equipment. Thousands of books, best-sellers among them, go for 50 cents to $2.

Juselius admits that part of the thrill is searching through donations for that needle in a haystack — the item the church might make big money on.

This year, she found it in a 1927 Santa Fe-style painting that she already sold as part of a set for $1,000.

Anything left after the sale is offered to one of about 20 local nonprofit agencies that are invited to haul away what they need. The remainder is sent to Goodwill and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

“Once the weekend is done, the church is spotless again,” Juselius said. “We're like a train that gets started in spring and just goes until we're done.”

Tawnya Panizzi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-782-2121, ext. 2 or at tpanizzi@tribweb.com.

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