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St. Paul rummage sales a charitable tradition

| Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

The women at St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Sewickley have been rummaging around for many decades to help those in need.

Bonnie Batina of Leetsdale, a volunteer and church member, said the church's twice-a-year rummage sale features items at low prices, almost unchanged from the early events. The next sale will be Friday and Saturday.

About $1,000 is raised each year, but Batina said the women have found ways to stretch the money to help many organizations and the church.

Batina, 65, who has helped with the sale since the early 1990s, said she found entries in church archives about the event from as early as 1928, when the women donated $50 to the minister's pension fund.

Other entries touch on sales in 1929 and 1930, but there were no other mentions after that until the early 1950s. That's when Kathy Hyre's mother, the late Flo Umbel, and her aunt, the late Katherine Sickeler, took over.

Hyre, 65, of Sewickley, is another volunteer and church member who helps to organize and run the sale. She worked at the sale when she was in elementary school, and got involved again when she retired in 2009.

As were her mother and aunt, Hyre is a member of the church's Women of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America group, which organizes the event.

Some profits support an outreach determined through the Southwestern Synodical Organization, of which the St. Paul's women's group is a member. This year, they are supporting Marianna Christian Center.

After the spring rummage sale, Batina said, money as well as Christmas items and more than six boxes of clothing were donated to the Washington County center, which distributes free items to women in need.

Some of the money has been donated to Gwen's Girls in Squirrel Hill; Lydia's Place in downtown Pittsburgh; Women's Center of Beaver County, Beaver; and Girls Hope at Sisters of St. Joseph in Baden.

Funds often go to the church's Vacation Bible School, Christmas baskets for shut-ins, the church's card ministry and for gifts for children through the Northside Common Ministry, a nonprofit in Fineview that helps the hungry and homeless.

Each year, church volunteers set up an angel tree, on which are attached about 100 paper angels featuring the names of children. Church members pick an angel off the tree and buy a gift for that child.

The sale will feature Christmas and baby items, books, household goods, men's clothing, bedding, linens, appliances and picture frames from 5 cents to no more $5 for most. Shoppers often wait until Saturday to take part in bag day, during which any items that can be stuffed into a 13-gallon garbage bag cost a total of $2 (just raised from $1).

Batina recalls one woman who was elated at being able to buy a bicycle for her granddaughter for $1, and another shopper who bought Christmas trees for $1 each to decorate vacant storefronts in Ambridge.

Many times, shoppers will buy large amounts of items to distribute to those in need. For a few years, a church member bought a warm jacket at a sale and wore it to a Pittsburgh Steelers game. On the way out, he gave the jacket to a homeless person.

Leftovers from the sales are donated to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Coraopolis.

Joanne Barron is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1406.

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