38th Annual Woodbury Lions Club Community Garage Sale set for May 7-9

The Woodbury Lions Club Community Garage Sale benefits buyers, sellers and most of all, the Woodbury community.
The original garage sale coordinator, Paul Wernimont (center), with Don Place, Mark Cavaleri, Joe Kielbasa and Chris Holthe.

May 7, 8 and 9: a weekend circled on many calendars in Woodbury. The fishing opener? Yes. Mother’s Day? Yes. But this weekend draws much anticipation for a lot of Woodbury residents and businesses, plus visitors from many neighboring states, for another reason—the 2015 Woodbury Lions Club Community Garage Sale.

For 38 years, the Community Garage Sale has ushered in spring on the second weekend in May. In fact, it’s one of four city of Woodbury-sponsored community nonprofit events, along with Woodbury Days, the Woodbury Country Mile and the Citizens’ Academy. We take a look back at how it all began, and what’s planned for this year’s event.

A Humble Beginning
In the mid-1970s, Woodbury was a younger city, with just a handful of residential developments. Each spring/summer weekend, there were several individual garage sales and thus, a proliferation of flyers tacked to telephone poles, plus signs in road right-of-ways. Sometimes they came loose and blew around, or weren’t removed after the sale. People started to complain.

“At the time, there were a number of us in the Lions Club who worked hard to try to maintain, for as long as possible, the small town atmosphere that characterized Woodbury at the time,” says Paul Wernimont, past president and longtime Lions Club member. “The garage sale problem was a situation that needed a small town solution.”

It so happened that the Lions Club was looking for a new community service project. Wernimont took on the role as central coordinator of Woodbury’s first community-wide Lions Club Garage Sale, with a variety of incentives for residents to participate and pay a $10 fee: a yard sign, newspaper ads, a listing of items for sale and marked maps of sale locations. “In the first year, there were 37 households participating,” Wernimont says. “The main goal was as a local service activity—to reduce the summer-long flyer and sign problem, but also to provide an added service to individual Woodbury homes; the funding aspect was a relatively minor goal. Of course, it has now become a major source of funds for the Woodbury Lions Club, and a major social event as well.”

Benefits for Sellers, Buyers, Businesses
Many of the same incentives exist today for residents hosting a Lions Club Garage Sale: a (disposable) yard sign, promotion by the city of Woodbury and local media, and a comprehensive, user-friendly directory with detailed neighborhood maps, sale listings and even a “Johnny on the spot” map of bathroom facilities available at city shelters and portables. The directory is also available as an e-directory and interactive map for use on a smart phone, tablet or computer. As an extra incentive, all registered garage sales are entered into a drawing for two $250 cash prizes.

“We have a dedicated garage sale website, lionsgaragesale.org, that offers helpful ‘start to finish’ hints for sellers including what to do with the things that don’t sell, and tips for buyers including a link to RoundAbout U, with instructions on driving through roundabouts,” says Lions Club member Mark Cavaleri. “Between January and the sale, we’ll have over 50,000 unique hits on the website, many from Wisconsin, southern Minnesota down through Iowa, and northern Minnesota. Each year a tour bus from Little Falls comes, as well as a large family from Waukesha, Wis. that camps out and makes it a big family event. So it’s not just a Woodbury or east metro event; we literally get hits from around the globe.”

In the last few years, the Lions Club has worked to get local businesses more engaged in the sale, to leverage the large amount of visitors coming to town. Sponsorship and advertising opportunities are available on the website, signs and directory, and some hotels, restaurants and shops offer special offers. “We typically have sold out that weekend and we always include the garage sale directory with our rooms; you can always tell it’s garage sale time as our parking lot is full of trailers,” says Heather Davis, director of sales at Woodbury’s Country Inn and Suites. “It’s a great thing for the community, and they [Lions Club] work really hard to pull it off.”

Giving Back to Woodbury
The Lions Club costs for the garage sale include the printing of directories and signs. “Revenue from registrations ($30 participant fee) and directory sales ($5 each).cover only the direct costs, with all the remaining (net) proceeds going back to the Woodbury community,” says Don Place, Lions Club president. “Each year we award scholarships to Woodbury students; support our local food shelf, veterans’ memorial, citizens’ academy and Relay for Life; and provide sight and hearing assistance including hearing aids, eyeglasses and leader dogs for the blind. That’s why it’s so important for residents to sign up for the garage sale and be a Lions Club supporter as about 80 percent of our donation money comes from the event.”

Last year saw over 700 registered garage sales in the directory, but not every household hosting a sale that weekend takes the step to register. “We estimate there were well over 1,000 garage sales last year,” says Chris Holthe, who co-chairs the event with Carrie Frost. “A lot of shoppers tend to be repeat shoppers, and they appreciate what we do; they will only buy from houses with Lions Club Garage Sale signs. They, and the residents who register, understand the ‘giving back to the community’ piece, and appreciate the tremendous benefits gained from registering and being in the directory.”

Instant Crowd = Successful Sale
With thousands of garage sale shoppers converging on Woodbury for the annual Lions Club Garage Sale, sellers can be assured of strong traffic and sales; the event has also proven to be a great fundraiser for local churches holding sales as well. “I’ve had five or six garage sales over the years and my profits have been no less than $1,000 and as much as $2,800,” says local resident Jill Sweeny. “I’ve sold all of my baby stuff and toys which are always good sellers, and also everything from poorly-running snow blowers to barely used toys; one woman gave me $50 for my flowers pots that weren’t even for sale! It’s a lot of fun and I look forward to it every year.

“I’ve also found that spending the 40-50 hours preparing was not necessary,” Sweeny says. “Successful garage sales aren’t about being perfect in terms of organization. They’re about being priced right.”

Did You Know?
The Woodbury Lions Club has been serving Woodbury since 1969, with active members engaged in meaningful projects for the benefit of the community. Their primary focus is to support youth and educational programs and to assist people with sight and hearing impairments in the community. The organization was recently honored by the Woodbury Area Chamber of Commerce as the 2014 Nonprofit of the Year. For more information, go to woodburylions.org.

38th Annual Woodbury Lions Club Community Garage Sale
May 7, 8 and 9
To register, go to lionsgaragesale.org.