Reflecting on 40 Years of the Mt. Bethel Children’s Consignment Sale
August 13, 2019
By Millie Atkinson
This week, something familiar will happen within the yellow walls of Mt. Bethel that has happened almost without fail for 40 years…and it all starts with Wednesday Night Dinner. The delicious aromas and the clatter of silverware in the Fellowship Hall will soon be transformed into a massive showroom of children’s clothing, shoes, toys, books, and accessories. The buzzing energy begins just after dinner as the clothing racks and sale equipment are extracted from their storage space under the stage. Soon the consignors will arrive with armloads, even carloads of items to fill the Hall. Volunteers will carry each and every one of these items cheerfully onto the sale floor to the tunes of familiar praise music blasting through the speakers. The Fall Children’s Consignment Sale has begun!
Since 1979, the Mt. Bethel Consignment Sale Committee and a group of dedicated volunteers and consignors have converged for less than 72 hours each fall and spring to embark on a mission to serve families and children in need. It all started in what used to be the staff kitchen of the church by Jan Durham, who got the idea from seeing a children’s consignment sale at the Holy Innocents School. Soon the sale outgrew its original location and moved into the old, old Sanctuary (which now houses church offices) and eventually into its current home in the Fellowship Hall.
The basic premise of the sale has remained the same—consignors bring their items to be sold and receive 70 percent of the proceeds, while Mt.Bethel keeps 30 percent to donate to charities that support women and children in need. From the generous consignor who opts to donate any unsold items, we give needy families the experience of shopping our sales floor at no charge, offering them the chance to hand select items for their children. The entire remaining inventory is packed up and sent to missions near and far, including MUST Ministries, The Hope Center, West Virginia, Kenya, and Romania.
I have personally witnessed the delight in a Romanian girl’s eyes as she selected a beautiful dress from an assortment we brought from the sale. Other missionaries from Mt. Bethel have shared the same experiences. Make no mistake, God can use anything, even a hand-me-down to show His love for His people.
Our sale is special, as anyone who has participated in it knows. Over the years it has become a major undertaking with more than 25,000 items coming in. Now we use a computer system for inventory and credit card processing machines. But it’s so much bigger than just an exchange of the things our kids have outgrown. This is God’s sale, and we can’t know this side of heaven how much impact it has made.
I like to think of it as a massive outreach and a vital connection point for multiple generations of church members, from young moms and dads to school-age parents to grandparents. The sale brings the Body of Christ together for this effort for just under 72 hours, and its effects are far-reaching and long lasting.
It will be late Saturday afternoon soon. Hardly a trace of the sales floor remains. The thousands of items lovingly displayed are happily being used in a new home, returned to consignors for another sale, or on their way to families in need. The racks have been dismantled and stowed under the stage. It’s quiet in the Fellowship Hall. Tomorrow will be Sunday and time for worship. But come Springtime, an excitement will build again as the Spring Consignment Sale carries on. May this mission carry on for another 40 years.