August 1st is a date known around town for the shifting tectonic plates of renters vacating apartments and claiming new spaces, perhaps leaving spaces in the market for the area’s newcomers. July’s lead up to the August move-out is almost more recognizable for the free piles littering curbs – litter not quite being the right word, when every now and then one can score big, acquiring couches, tea kettles, or the perfect T-shirt. Admittedly, free piles may not do the trick entirely, especially for those new to town looking to furnish their space.

In search of furniture, homewares, or clothes, newcomers and long-time residents alike may consider the First Unitarian Society of Ithaca’s annual Recycle Sale or Cornell University’s Dump & Run. Alongside yard sales and thrift stores, these efforts in reuse curtail impacts on wallets and the environment alike by keeping goods out of the landfill, and making the acquisition of quality items affordable.

“Empty nest, empty pockets?” read fliers from years gone by for the Unitarian Recycle Sale. When exactly the sale began is not crystal-clear, having several iterations over the years. Its beginnings lie under the legacy of the church’s Women’s Alliance, known as the Annual Women’s Bazaar until the Alliance’s decline in the late 70s. Martha Ferger, long time church member recalls that there was talk of making the sale more inclusive, calling upon men’s involvement in the effort.

This history is of particular importance in recognizing how integral the sale is to the church’s community. Now in the hands of co-chairs Sue Roenke and Nancy Miller, the sale brings in the about a third of the congregation, or 100 members, volunteering to cover over 150 two or three hour shifts during the sale weekend, not to mention countless more hours on donation intake nights.

The sale is seen to foster a respect for the interconnected web of existence, one of the seven principles of Unitarian Universalism, by promoting recycling and actively giving to those in need.

The Unitarian Recycling Sale runs Saturday, August 18, 9 a.m. - 4 p.m., Sunday, August 19, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., and Monday, August 20, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. The first day of the sale items are full price, clothing ranging from $1 to $12, most other items averaging a dollar or two, hardcover books at $4. On Sunday, items are half off, and on Monday everything is by donation. After the sale, remaining goods are distributed to organizations like Catholic Charities, efforts being made to make sure as little as possible is thrown out.

Much of the money made from the sale goes back to the community as the church sponsors Babies First, providing families in need with items like strollers or cribs, and the Social Justice Council supports initiatives surrounding issues ranging from climate change, to veterans affairs, to Black Lives Matter. 

Where much of the inventory at the Unitarian Recycle Sale is donated by the congregation, families and older members looking to clean out or downsize, Cornell’s Dump & Run is primarily stocked with goods – about 30 tons worth diverted from the landfill – discarded by students hastily leaving town, ranging from spare clothes to camera equipment and most things in between.

Proceeds from the sale benefit Cops, Kids & Toys, the National Alliance on Mental Illness - Finger Lakes Chapter, the United Way of Tompkins County and the Izaak Walton League serving Cortland and Tompkins Counties. The $60,000 which has historically been raised by the sale is donated to the non-profits proportionally based on the number of hours served by volunteers from the organizations, who essentially earn the money for their groups based on how much they work.

Lines for the Dump & Run can be notoriously long, beginning early in the morning before the sale opens at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, August 18 and runs until 6:00 p.m. Be prepared to wait in line, but also know that items are sold by the bag on Sunday, August 19 from 9:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m.


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