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
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.
Corrections or additions?
This page is published by PrincetonInfo.com
— the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.