Tosa effort raises funds for those who serve the poor

WAUWATOSA — The doors haven’t even opened and already the line is down the block.

Teenagers waiting for tickets to a Jonas Brothers concert? Techies wanting to be among the first to own the latest electronic gadget? Packer fans hoping to become season ticket holders?


In 2005, patrons waited in line to enter the rummage sale at St. Joseph Parish, Wauwatosa. In its 40th year, the sale not only benefits the parish, but also raises money for charities in the greater Milwaukeee area. (Catholic Herald file photo by Sam Lucero)

The popular event that has people wanting to be first in line is the annual St. Joseph Parish rummage sale. This year’s sale will be held June 18, noon to 7 p.m.; June 19, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and June 20, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The parish is located at North 121st and West Center streets.

The parish fund-raiser that has grown into a rummage extravaganza had humble beginnings 40 years ago.

“There were just a few women who decided to begin the sale, thinking it would be a small fund-raiser,” said Fran Tollefson, rummage sale coordinator.

In those days the expectations were modest. Carol Dirnbauer, who still volunteers at the rummage, remembers the first sale. The Christian Women Society raised $3,000 and members were thrilled to contribute so much to the parish.

“Since then, the sale has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to help not only St. Joseph Parish, but also to share our good fortune with charities all over the greater Milwaukee area,” said Tollefson. “It has grown tremendously throughout the years. We now have a school-full of donations, plus we sell many plants, garden furniture, bikes, books, computers and we have a concession stand.”

When the sale is over, the parish donates the remaining items to Prince of Peace so the south side parish can hold its own rummage sale.
Word has spread about the huge selection as well as the quality of items at the sale.

“We are very proud of our sale,” said Tollefson. “We try not to sell any merchandise that is not in good condition.”

Donations will be accepted at St. Joseph School, 2750 N.122nd St., Wauwatosa, through June 12 between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. and
from June 15 to 17 between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Organizers ask that only clean merchandise in working condition be donated. Clothing should be untorn and washed.

Sale hours
St. Joseph Parish
12130 W. Center St., Wauwatosa

Thursday, June 18, noon to 7 p.m.
Friday, June 19, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Saturday, June 20, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The sale has a reputation for being well organized and clean, as well as for having reasonable prices.

“I think people look forward to the sale each year. I hear from teachers that they come to find things they can use in their classrooms. Families come to help furnish their college student’s first apartment. Young families come for toys and clothing,” said Tollefson.
While the usual array of rummage is always available, there are always plenty of surprises.

“We’ve sold a used car, a fishing boat, a commercial tanning bed,” said Tollefson.  “This year we have an antique sewing machine and an antique radio.”

This year’s sale also has a “green” com- ponent: a recycling Dumpster will be on the playground and will accept all kinds of metal and cans (no plastic). Another Dumpster will collect cardboard and paper.

Making the event successful requires many hands to sort, price and display items.

“Several hundred volunteers will work from June 5 until the sale opening day on June 18,” said Tollefson.

Volunteers range from grade school children to men and women in their 80s. While the work is hard and seemingly endless, it is rewarding. The parish and school benefit from the proceeds, as do Repairers of the Breach, St. Vincent de Paul and Salvation Army.

The reason people help year after year, Tollefson said, is, “They love to volunteer because they renew old friendships and enjoy the company of friends they have made over the years.”

While the economy is bad for most businesses, it’s a boon to the rummage sale business.

“We are guessing that, due to the economy, we will have a record crowd this year,” said Tollefson.