Children’s toys and games are among the many items available at the annual St. Joseph Rummage Sale. The Wauwatosa parish will host this year’s event June 20-22. (Submitted photo)

The St. Joseph Christian Women Rummage Sale raises thousands of dollars each year to help the school, parish and many outreach programs.
This year, the Wauwatosa parish will hold its annual sale June 20-22 in the school gym and parish hall.
For 56 years, the women have hosted the popular rummage sale, which is widely known throughout the area. The idea materialized in 1968 when a group of women wanted to find a way to raise money to help the parish school.
The volunteers are parishioners, grade school and high school students, and young adults.
The sale accepts cash-only payments and police protection is on hand to ensure safe transactions. Anticipation for the annual sale is high, said Frances Tollefson, with lines of 200-300 people before the doors open on the first day.
“Some people come every year and line up early to get the special items they want to buy,” Tollefson said. “Things are slow but steady on days two and three. Day three is half price/bag day. Many, but not all, items are half-price. We provide the bags to be filled at $6 per bag. Customers know how to fill the bags to capacity for the best bargains.”
Proceeds for this year’s sale are earmarked for unbudgeted items for the parish.
“The funds enable St. Joseph to continue the many outreach programs we support throughout the greater Milwaukee area,” Tollefson said. “Some of the parish items we have supported are the purchase of Sanctus bells; hymnals; school technology, such as computers and (interactive white) boards; albs; church carpeting; religious education (supplies) and school programming; everything in our parish cafeteria and kitchen; and landscaping.”
It takes about 250 volunteers to pull off a rummage sale of this magnitude. It begins with a crew of volunteers who pick up and accept some of the donations throughout the year and place them in storage. Beginning June 1, all items are moved to the St. Joseph School building. Volunteers begin organizing, displaying and accepting more donations from the parishioners. The donations and organizing continue until sale week.
“One of our goals is to help the elderly St. Joseph parishioners (by collecting their donations) if they are moving and need help,” Tollefson said. “In addition, our recycling program operates year-round. Burned-out Christmas lights and aluminum cans are collected and brought to a recycling center.”
The rummage sale accepts most donations, excluding men’s and women’s clothing and shoes. Tollefson explained that they used to accept these items as they used to utilize the school classrooms for the sale.
“Since we have transitioned to our lower level, we no longer have room for these items. We do sell better adult coats and a massive amount of children’s clothing,” she said. “It has all been sorted so we sell only the best donations.”
Because the St. Joseph Rummage sale is considered one of the most well-organized sales in the area, the volunteers, donors and customers return year after year, said Tollefson.
“We have sold so many unusual things, such as a professional tanning bed, organs, a car, mounted deer heads, a new hot tub and a wooden outdoor play set,” she said. “This year, we have three foosball tables, a set of drums, keyboards and flat-screen TVs. We sell plants from our parish gardeners and have a concession stand where visitors can purchase hot dog lunches along with large chocolate cookies made by parish women.”
Of the more unique items a parishioner donated to the sale in past years were the chairs and candelabra used by Archbishop Sebastian G. Messmer in his private chapel. The women’s group did not include those items in their sale, choosing instead to donate them to Messmer High School.
Tollefson explained that it isn’t solely what they sell that makes the event so special — the volunteers consider the rummage sale as a social event.
“They enjoy getting together, working together and making plans for after the sale,” she said. “We have a volunteer hospitality room where they can gather to renew friendships. Women bake treats which are served daily, and we serve a lunch on one of the days as a thank you to everyone who works so hard to make the sale a success.”
From the thousands of jewelry items, books, records, CDs and DVDs, the women try to price each item.
“We have a woman who cleans every piece of jewelry and this year we have 2,000 newly donated jewelry items. All bikes are checked over and cleaned, too,” said Tollefson. “On the last day of the sale, we donate all remaining merchandise to other charities. In the past, we have donated to St. Joseph Tool Chest, Tosa Cares, Adullam, United Methodist Children’s Services, Christ Child Society, School Sisters of Notre Dame, Goodwill, Soles for Jesus, Reform Lutheran Church, Father Gene’s Help Center and Port of Mission.”
If you want to go:
St. Joseph Parish Rummage Sale
12130 W. Center St., Wauwatosa
Thursday, June 20: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Friday, June 21: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Saturday, June 22: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.