Helping with the next step

Soroptimist-run estate sale proceeds go toward scholarships

Soroptimists Marilyn Brown (right) and Marjorie Rorabaugh discuss pricing during a recent estate sale in Washougal.

Soroptimist-run estate sale proceeds go toward scholarships

Upcoming Soroptimist Estate Sale

The next Soroptimist estate sale will be at Camas United Methodist Church, 706 N.E. 14th Ave., on Saturday, Sept. 29.

For more information, contact Marilyn Brown at 833-1828 or mjb20@comcast.net; or Maxine Ambrose at 834-4183 or ambroz2730@yahoo.com.

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Books at the estate sale included everything from classic novels to home improvement guides.

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Estate sale co-coordinator Gail Hitchcock enjoys the sense of camraderie among volunteers. "There's no backstabbing here," she said.

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China, vases and flatware were all priced carefully, according to their value, said Marilyn Brown, estate sale organizer.

During an estate sale, organizers serve as everything from counselors to advertisers to business planners.But for a local non-profit group, it goes even further than that.

Soroptimist International of Camas-Washougal has been hosting estate sales for more than 25 years, and donating all proceeds to educational scholarships for local women. For them, it’s a labor of love: All work is voluntary, and they often serve as a shoulder to cry on.

“A lot of times, older people are downsizing, going from being independent to assisted living, and it can be difficult for them to go through everything,” said Marilyn Brown, Soroptimist estate sale coordinator.

“We need to have some big shoulders sometimes,” said co-coordinator Gail Hitchcock. “They don’t want to leave their homes and we have to go through their stuff. It’s not just a sale, it’s a community service for these folks as well.”

The goal of each sale it to help the homeowners or the families of the owners deal with a household full of items, and help the neighbors and estate sale followers find that kitchen item, tool or garden gadget they need.

“There is always an air of excitement at each sale for the buyers looking for that special bargain and Soroptimists watching and helping people find the best buys,” Brown said. “Our goal is to present a clean, well-organized sale that honors the life the family the lived in the house. We strive to be consistent with pricing.”

The group began the sales in 1987, when Soroptimist Betty Ramsey answered the call of a neighbor who needed to move and wanted help selling everything.

Ramsey has since retired from coordinating the sales. Now, Maxine Ambrose, Brown and Hitchcock coordinate the sales.

Since 1987, the group has done at least 10 estate, living estate or moving sales every season, which runs from March through October. They’ve had sales gross as high as $12,000 in a single day.

Estate sales generate $13,000 to $15,000 a year that the group distributes as scholarships.

“This has just developed over the years,” Brown said. “Now we have a trailer to haul items. We used to use our cars, and that took a lot of doing. Buying the trailer has been a Godsend.”

Average sales last fiscal year were $4,500 gross, with 40 percent going to the Soroptimists.

“We have many customers who have followed our sales for years and we are all glad to see each other every March,” Brown said.

Approximately 10 people per day work three days a week for an average of three weeks to sort, price, prepare and clean up after a sale. Antique and collectible items are priced so someone can resell them. New items are priced at 60 percent less than current store values, according to Brown.

“We bring in all the tables to put items on, and work to make a nice, clean sale prepared for a family,” Brown said. “It’s really appreciated by our buyers. We also do extra things such as recycle all of the metals in the house, consign items that don’t sell, and donate everything else to the East County Family Resource Center, The Arc of Southwest Washington or Habitat for Humanity. There’s no junk here, it’s all good stuff.”

After a sale, the Soroptimists vacuum, sweep and clean off the counters.

Recently, volunteers prepared for a sale in Washougal, and laughter and light-hearted teasing could be heard throughout the home.

“I really enjoy the camaraderie with the other women, and everyone has their talents,” Hitchcock said. “There’s no backstabbing or gossiping here. We’re just trying to help people.”

Added volunteer Marjorie Rorabaugh, who will be 90 in November, “It’s a great group of people to work with.”