Set for the T.J. Maxx parking lot from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., this is the third time the Cleveland retailer has partnered with The Refuge (formerly The Refuge Community Centre) to host the fundraiser. The first two were held in the month of April, but the nonprofit’s leaders have opted to move it to the autumn season for cooler temperatures and to better spread the agency’s slate of community activities throughout the year.
“T.J. Maxx not only donates the store’s parking lot, but its employees are also allowed to donate their time to help with the yard sale setup, including the organization of all the donated inventory and also to spend the day with us serving our customers,” according to Kelli Kyle, director of Community Involvement for The Refuge.
She credited Joe Buccellato, T.J. Maxx manager who embraced The Refuge cause early in its arrival to Cleveland and who offered the retailer’s help, and the volunteerism of its employees, in helping the nonprofit to establish a footing in the Bradley County community.
“Joe had a strong desire to help The Refuge to raise money in order to help the community,” Kyle stressed.
Some of the agency’s outreach spans the entire Cleveland and Bradley County area; however, most of it is concentrated in East Cleveland which contains neighborhoods whose household per capita incomes are among the lowest in Tennessee. This is one of the reasons The Refuge operates from the Family Support Center on Blythe Avenue.
In past interviews with the Cleveland Daily Banner, Kyle has pointed to the need for The Refuge to set up shop in the very neighborhoods whose families it seeks to help. The Family Support Center is housed in the old (but now remodeled) Blythe Avenue Elementary School building. It is owned and operated by the Family Resource Agency, a United Way member agency.
Other organizations operating from the Family Support Center are the New Hope Pregnancy Center, the BICC (Bradley Initiative for Church & Community) Credit Union, Head Start, a Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland satellite (another United Way agency) and Circuit Court offices for the 10th Judicial District.
The Community Yard Sale’s birth came at a needful time — two days after the devastating tornadoes of April 27, 2011, that took nine lives in Bradley County alone and destroyed 285 homes while badly damaging hundreds of others. The yard sale’s original intent had been to serve as fundraiser for The Refuge’s people-service programs; however, in the wake of the late-April storms the decision was made to divert yard sale proceeds to storm recovery.
Even before the yard sale, The Refuge had volunteers and staff assisting with storm cleanup and family assistance in badly impacted areas.
“The Refuge struggled with the decision to continue on with the yard sale or not,” Kyle reflected. “We were already on the ground handing out water, food and cleaning up the day after the storms so we had close ties to families in need. This led to our decision to use the first fundraiser to help those who lost everything and to collect donations for disaster relief.”
The community responded.
“The yard sale had a great turnout that Saturday and people gave very generously to help our community,” she said. “This began what has now become a long and growing partnership with T.J. Maxx and with the people of Cleveland and Bradley County.”
All proceeds from the inaugural yard sale benefited storm victims. The second yard sale in April 2012 returned the agency’s focus to raising funds to support its expanding slate of family-support and people-empowering initiatives.
“Proceeds helped our various literacy programs, family services and our new School Supply Provision, a back-to-school drive that distributed 483 backpacks filled with supplies to students in grades K-12 in the Cleveland City and Bradley County School systems,” Kyle explained. “Although the 2012 yard sale has already taken place, we’re moving it to the autumn season and we’re starting in the same year.”
She added, “The temperatures will be a lot more comfortable, the weather should be a little more predictable and this will put some space between the yard sale and the professional rodeo fundraiser that is held each spring at Tri-State Exhibition Center.”
Another reason for not waiting until Fall 2013 to hold the next yard sale is because of the success of the first two. Quality donations from the community and from T.J. Maxx, the central location on Huff Parkway and the public’s strong response made the decision for the nonprofit’s leaders.
“We call this a Community Yard Sale because it is made possible by the community through various donations from families all around town,” Kyle said. “Without the community’s donations, and without our growing partnership with T.J. Maxx, this fundraiser would not be possible. We are very grateful to all who have accepted The Refuge as a partner.”
As with all autumn weekends in Cleveland and Bradley County, Kyle said the coming one will be busy for families looking to enjoy the outdoors. They’ll have plenty of options.
“We’re hoping families and individuals, and friends and loved ones will make our T.J. Maxx Community Yard Sale one of their stops on Saturday,” she stressed. “Based on the results of the last two yard sales, we believe they’ll have a great time!”
Questions about the yard sale, or those wishing to make material donations to be sold, may be directed to The Refuge at 423-584-5211 or by sending an email to email@example.com.
Other programs operated by The Refuge include A Refuge Community Christmas, Clean Cleveland, CPR Literacy & AED Certification, typing skills, college and grant application assistance, job searches, housing assistance, resume writing, Welcome Newborn with SkyRidge Medical Center and referral services to other nonprofits which can better meet a family’s needs.