Local Charities Shop for Free at the Sisterhood Garage Sale


Earning funds to help CBI Sisterhood with temple projects isn’t the only purpose of its yearly summertime garage sale. There’s a broader mission of tikkun olam, too.

Dozens of Sisterhood and other volunteers worked hundreds of hours collecting, sorting, displaying, folding, and preparing the donated goods for sale. Smith Auditorium was packed not only with items for sale but with buyers making purchases. But, of course, much was still left unbought when the sale closed. 

That’s where Sisterhood’s commitment to tikkun olam comes into play. Sisterhood invited several local non-profits to come over and search for specific items perfect for their clients’ needs.

“Sisterhood helps look after the temple community, of course,” explains Ruth Siegel, president. “But we have a duty and a privilege to care for others in our community, too. It’s a mitzvah in the realm of tikkun olam.”

So, toward that end, and with Sisterhood’s conviction that reuse is a key to sending as little as possible into the local landfill, attempts were made to invite a dozen non-profits to shop for free.

For instance, three volunteer board members from Casa Marianella, a volunteer-driven emergency homeless shelter that serves recently arrived immigrants and asylum seekers from around the world, came to shop. They left with sacks of men’s clothing and boxes of dishes and other kitchen items and a child’s football.

Three large boxes of good, currently fasionable women’s clothes, purses and shoes – just right for job interviews – were delivered to Dress for Success Austin.  Its mission is to “empower women to achieve economic independence by providing a network of support, professional attire and development tools to help them thrive in work and life.”

A volunteer for School’s Out & Food’s In, a food bank in Dripping Springs, packed up every last remaining children’s book, about five large boxes. The idea is that books for children can be included in the food packages that go to the needy families who depend on that charity for food. 

A Burke Center for Youth volunteer took several old movie DVDs the high school teens might like to watch in their facility. The Burke Center “strives to promote healing and inspire hope for children in crisis.” 

Austin Creative Reuse in Lincoln Village received five big boxes of unsold frames, office and school supplies, binders and crafts. Its mission is it “foster conservation and resuse through creativity, education and community building.”

After the Sunday garage sale, the next day Goodwill of Central Texas sent a truck and driver who took all the remaining clothes, shoes and coats, kitchen ware, furniture, blankets, draperies, bathroom items, artwork, books and CDs and other items for its purposes.

Sisterhood made sure that the smaller and often less-known non-profits had the first chance at shopping before Goodwill, a much larger, well-funded and popular enterprise, came by. 

A key to properly disposing of the leftover items is removal. Nonprofits often have a difficult time with lack of staffing and few volunteers who have the right vehicles or time to drive to the synagogue, load up and return. Lack of storage is also a common problem for non-profits. Oftentimes they can only take goods for immediate needs, as there is no place for them to store furniture or clothing for anticipated future requirements. 

Following this year’s initial success and experience, next year the plan is for Sisterhood to encourage the same organizations and even more smaller non-profits to shop for free. 

“Spreading our goodwill here and there not only helps other people than Sisterhood usually reaches, it also helps our own members feel good about their efforts to benefit the wider community,” Siegel said.

Gaylon Finklea Hecker