Operation Hope volunteers primed for big tag sale this weekend
Nine years ago, Lisa Bond decided to volunteer her family's services for Operation Hope's annual summer tag sale.
"As a teacher, I'm off of work in the summer and I was looking for a way to spend time with my three children while also participating in a community service project," Bond explained. "This seemed like the perfect opportunity." Her three children -- Caitlyn, Torin and Garrett -- were then 13, 11 and 7.
Each summer they looked forward to heading up the tag sale's toy section. Lisa said their responsibilities included sorting through all of the donations that came in and making sure that the games and puzzles all had the correct parts and pieces. "They were actually knowledgeable and very helpful," Bond said. "They knew more about these toys than I did and it was fun for them to be part of the event."
This year marks the 21st annual tag sale benefiting Operation Hope, and the two-day event takes place Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sunday, from noon to 4 p.m. The new location for the sale this year is First Church Congregational at 148 Beach Road.
Proceeds support the Fairfield-based agency's mission to end hunger and homelessness in the area. "It's so greatly needed, especially during these times," Bond said.
This year, Bond's two sons, now 16 and 20, won't be on hand for the fundraiser because they are working at a camp. "They're disappointed," Bond said. However, her daughter, Caitlyn, 21, is not only volunteering but also taking on the role of chairwoman for all of the sale's donations of jewelry and accessories. Caitlyn was recruited by the event's overall chairwoman and someone she knows quite well -- her mother, Lisa.
Last year, when Bond learned that Michelle Stearns, director of volunteers at Operation Hope, was looking for someone to oversee the entire event, she stepped forward.
"Lisa is one of the many volunteers who show up year after year to volunteer and we were so grateful that she assumed this leadership position," Stearns said.
Previously staged in August at the Wakeman's Boys and Girls Club, the Operation Hope tag sale has undergone changes in the past couple of years. After hosting the fundraiser for 18 years, the agency took a break for a year to re-assess it the event. It was resurrected last July with Bond at the helm.
Stearns explained the tag sale had previously been held in August because that was when space at the Boys and Girls Club was available. However, she noted August is typically not a great time for tag sale shopping or for lining up volunteers. "It's a busy time of year with young adults going back to college and parents getting ready to send their kids back to school," Stearns said. "Also, many people take their vacations at the end of August."
Last year's tag sale was a big success, she added, although a few people missed dropping off their donations because they thought it still took place later in the summer.
"We still did very well," Stearns added.
Both Stearns and Operation Hope Executive Director Carla Miklos said they are gratified by the strong community support for the event.
Stearns said that despite the break in its operations for one year, volunteers readily pitched in again last year and, once again, helped organize the various donation categories.
"I loved working in the toy section when I was little," said Caitlyn. "It was a lot of fun for us kids because we got to play with toys that we had given away a long time before." She also said it was a great way to meet other people her age. "I got to work with guys from Fairfield Prep," she noted.
Entering her senior year this fall at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Caitlyn looks forward to this weekend's event. Alongside her mother, she has been helping to unload donations, price items and organize them so shoppers can make their purchases easily. "I've really enjoyed seeing the same faces that come back year after year. It's such a big undertaking and many people are needed," she said.
Preparations for the tag sale have been in full swing this week, with two donation drop-off times, in the morning and late afternoon. "Some of our volunteers show up for both shifts," Stearns said. "They work tirelessly."
According to Operation Hope's website, the agency last year provided 137,000 meals to people in need. Many of those meals were prepared by individual volunteers and community groups.
"We've been in Fairfield for a long time and even when I was in middle school, I remember our family cooking meals and delivering them to Operation Hope," Caitlyn said. "It's a presence in our community. It's nice to know that there is an outlet not only for the people who need their services, but also for people in our community who want to give back to others."
Members of the Fairfield Rotary Club will sell bagels and coffee both mornings of the sale and grilled hot dogs in the afternoons. Homemade baked goods will also be available.
"It's an exciting event and we are all looking forward to it this year," Stearns said.
Operation Hope offers assistance with food, shelter and affordable housing. For more information about volunteering, contact Michelle Stearns at MStearns@OperationHopeCT.org or call 203-292-5588.