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Saturday, January 31st, 2009

Garage sale's value up as economy drops

By William Kincaid

Shoppers browse through items at the Mercer County Senior Citizen Center's garag. . .

Shoppers searching for bargains battled the elements and ventured to the Mercer County Senior Citizen Center's quarterly garage sale this week, oblivious of the snow-packed roads.
The garage sale is more important than ever to the daily operations of the senior center in Celina as the tanking economy has led to government funding reductions, garage sale Treasurer Ed Jeffries said.
Many of the center's grants are drying up or being cut. For instance, the Ohio Department of Transportation's annual grant of $9,350 was eliminated this year, said Karen Howick, executive director of the Mercer County Council on Aging, which oversees the center.
The federal Older Americans Act provides some subsidies, but each state must come up with matching funds.
"In July 2009, we may be told our federal grants are done," Howick said.
The senior citizen center is largely funded by a local levy and the generosity of fraternal and civic organizations.
"It's the levy that keeps up in business," she said.
In November local voters overwhelming passed a five-year, 0.55-mill levy that is estimated to bring in $400,000 annually for senior services.
The garage sale - which Jeffries claims to be the biggest in Ohio - is important.
Also on Thursday afternoon, there was a wide variety of items from clothing, toys, jewelry, furniture, computers, appliances, crafts, pictures, glassware, dishes, books and more.
"I love being with the people," said Mary Ann Wolfe of St. Henry, who for seven years has volunteered to work at the sale.
Dozens of volunteers began preparing for the sale three weeks ago. At least 60 are needed just to sort through the clothing, Jeffries said.
"You've got to have the buildings and you've got to have the help," he said.
The quarterly garage sales usually bring in around $60,000 each year, he said.
The garage sale money is used to help the senior center and council on aging provide a plethora of services to those 60 or older in the county.
Transportation is one of the biggest services provided, Howick said.
"I think everyone has seen the vans," she said.
County officials also provide chore services, heavy duty cleaning and snow shoveling. Also, outreach services for insurance issues are available.
"People in Mercer County don't know how lucky we are," Howick said. "It's all about people taking care of their neighbors."
The senior center offers many activities, including card nights and bingo. The lunch bunch provides daily meals at 11 a.m. five days a week at the center, where usually 20 people show up.
And during card nights - where euchre and pinochle are played - as many as 80 people participate, according to one volunteer.
The garage sale lasts until Tuesday at the center, located on Riley Street, Celina. Hours are 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m. today and Sunday and 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday and Tuesday.
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