Corrections or additions?

This article by Diana Wolf was prepared for the March 13, 2002

edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

The Virtue of Rummage

I Rummage, Therefore I Am!" The official battle

cry of the annual Trinity Church Rummage sale rings through the


of Princeton as the sale prepares to celebrate its 32nd year. Three

floors of church rooms crowd with sale items: artwork, TVs, microwave

ovens, furniture, a silver tray, a silver-plated candelabra, an Apple

Performa computer with software, crutches, golf equipment, suitcases,

a cedar chest, pet cages, a school desk, and 6,000 lbs. of clothes.

Sunday’s schedule includes a car trailer auction. Expectations are

high that this year’s proceeds will exceed last year’s impressive

sum of $40,000.

"It’s an exercise in time and space," says Reginald Bishop,

member of the congregation, just another volunteer, under whose care

the sale has flourished for the past 14 years. Lean, with gray hair

and glasses, wearing a baseball cap to protect his head from the


bumps he still gets on the church basement pipes, Bishop’s eyes


through the maze of 197 Home Depot plastic storage bins. The physical

activity required to lift these 30 lb. bins and move furniture, and

the determination to work 20 hours a week since January, belies his

80 years. His heart is strong, physically and emotionally, for this

yearlong labor of love. "It’s a lot of work, a lot of laughs,

and a lot of exercise," he says.

His Episcopal minister father and housewife mother laid a foundation

of service to others through religion. Bishop taught Sunday School

at the age of 14 in his hometown of Altoona, Pennsylvania. He


this teaching as an undergraduate at Princeton University when he

became a member of Trinity’s congregation in 1940. He earned a


degree in French before World War II interrupted his studies.

After serving as an artillery officer in the war, he returned to


in 1946. His father, then retired, moved the family to Princeton and

helped at the church while Bishop obtained both his master’s and Ph.D.

in romance languages. Bishop has taught at Princeton and Rutgers,

and was Academic Dean of Rutgers College within that university for

20 years. Bishop took the reins of the sale from his wife, now


who ran it before he did. He still teaches at Rutgers, currently


a 10-week fall course in literature for retirees. Every step of his

way was taken with religion as a part of his life. "I was raised

at a time when you were supposed to do something with it," he


And doing something with it he is. Bishop views this

rummage as not just selling things, but how every aspect in the


is a blessing. The sale provides social service to the public as a

place to drop off excess belongings. By making these items available

at reasonable prices, the sale is also social outreach for those of

limited means. When others purchase these items, the recycling is

a form of ecological stewardship.

Fundraising is the obvious goal, and every nickel raised goes directly

to charities, supplementing the church’s total donation budget.


that benefit are Trenton After School Program, which helps


kids, Trenton Soup Kitchen, a place that feeds the hungry, Crisis

Ministry of Princeton and Trenton, which assists those in need, and

Trinity Counseling Center, which provides psychological counseling

turning no one away, regardless of their ability to pay. The church

also helps with various housing initiatives to help those in need

find or keep a home, Clinton Women’s prison by providing toys for

incarcerated mothers to give at holidays, and Woman’s Exchange,


women returning to workplace with appropriate job interview clothing.

"We live in a culture of surplus, so we’re the middleman to get

the surplus to where it can be used." Over 250 volunteers achieve

these results. Throughout the year, clothes are cleaned, sorted, and

priced. Furniture is repaired. During the rummage, cashiers are


at every sale area. Volunteers work together and make friends. One

woman from California who helped last year while visiting a friend

plans to return this year. Bishop’s three daughters also lend their

assistance. Participating in the rummage "builds interior


of the 2,500 parishioners, another goal of Bishop’s.

Donations come from Princeton, outside Princeton, and the church


and not all items are accepted. Bishop turns away record albums, ski

equipment, mattresses (for health reasons), firearms, appliances (due

to space limits), and pre-1998 TVs. This year be advised that no furs

are available, there is no bartering, and transactions are cash only.

For the women who can’t wait, 50 advance tickets are available for

a $5 donation for Friday night’s Better Dresses Preview. From 7 to

9 p.m., these shoppers get first choice of dresses, shoes, hats, and

scarves. Some items I previewed (but, alas, was unable to


included a Christan Dior suit for $20, Anne Klein dress for $8, Laura

Ashley dress and a Brooks Brothers suit (in my size!) for $10, Talbots

and Eddie Bauer dresses for $8, and a pair of DKNY shoes for $5.

The serious action begins Saturday long before the sun rises. The

line can begin to form as early as 1 a.m., but a crowd typically


around 6 a.m. Over 75 percent of the shoppers hail from Trenton and

North Jersey, but include resourceful householders and Princeton


too. Bishop distributes numbered tickets at 8 a.m., once everyone

in line agrees to the sequence. When tickets are distributed, you

can leave and come back, as long as you arrive before your number

is called. Inside, signs guide shoppers on a one-way route so nothing

is missed. Bishop supervises the flow. "If you get so many


in that you got gridlock, that’s no good for business."

Late sleepers, fear not. "People should never hesitate to come,

even if they aren’t there at the very beginning," Bishop says,

stressing that those arriving at 11 a.m. won’t wait long for entry.

"There’s such volume that you’ll find good things, particularly

clothing, right up to the last hour."

However, shoppers beware. Bishop recounts a tale of a man trying on

a pair of pants. When he was done, the pants he’d worn in had been

sold. More upset over losing the belt, he was given a belt to go with

the new pair he was wearing.

On Sunday, most prices are cut in half, except boutique items, which

are items of value based on newness or antiquity, such as fine china

and glass, silver, watches, fine linen, or the 1932 Victrola that

will be offered this year. You can fill a grocery bag during the last

hour with bulk clothing for just $3.

Any remaining items are donated to other rummages or organizations

to make room for the new items that will arrive. "After 32 years,

we’re known as a place you can get rid of things," and the


is never empty. This year, Bishop will experiment with technology

by posting larger items on eBay for sale.

Whether $4 or $40,000 is raised, Bishop is satisfied with his efforts.

"If you want to make your life meaningful, you do something for

others. This is a way to do it."

— Diana Wolf

Annual Rummage Sale, Trinity Church, 33 Mercer


609-924-2277. Better Dresses Preview Night includes three rooms of

clothes, changing room with mirrors, an refreshments. $5. Friday,

March 15, 7 to 9 p.m.

Sale continues Saturday, March 16, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and


March 17, 12:30 p.m. to 3 p.m.

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