Blair in Kenya Annual Tag Sale

This year Blair’s annual “tag sale” fundraiser once again broke its own record of donations and sales. Faculty members Ms. Freitag and Dr. Higgin spearheaded the sale for the third year in a row. The school coordinated the two-day sale with the Blairstown Community in order to boost the turnout of shoppers. Proceeds from the sale will once again benefit Blair’s sister school which stands 7,000 miles away: Blair in Kenya. On the weekend of September 15, Blair sets up racks of clothing and furniture, all of which were either collected by volunteers or donated, on Park Street beside the Makerspace. The sale was planned and prepared for with immense orchestration in hopes of growing Blair’s support towards such an impactful cause as Blair in Kenya.

 

As faculty who lived and spent time in the dorms at Blair, the amount of wasted clothing/items left behind became apparent to both Ms. Freitag and Dr. Higgin. Every year, after students return home for the summer, items like clothing, refrigerators, furniture pieces, and printers get left behind. Consequently, clothing and goods (all in useable condition) become regarded as “trash.” At the end of the year, everything that is unclaimed gets thrown out then put directly into landfill. Many of the items which are put into landfill annually are not biodegradable, resulting in pollution, excess waste build-up, and negatively affecting wildlife. “Saving all the things that get left behind when boarding students leave at the end of the school year to keep them going in the dumpster and giving that money to charity has been a dream of mine since I was in high school.” said Dr. Higgin. As said by faculty co-founder of the sale, Ms. Freitag, “this sale is a win-win-win-win. Here are all the wins:

1) Literally tons upon tons of items are kept from a landfill

2) The money goes to a good cause

3) Our students learn about waste/conspicuous consumption AND get to buy good stuff at great prices!

4) It improves relations with the town because a lot of our shoppers are not from the Blair community.”

Extensive preparation for this year’s sale has been underway since the beginning of last May. Prep starts at making sure there is a van at every dorm (for collecting donations) during “Move Out Day” of the school year before each sale. Organizing and collecting donations from the dorms is only “the tip of the iceberg.” For Ms. Freitag and Dr. Higgin, the process of making the sale run smoothly begins with forming detailed plans with directions for everyone involved and does not end until every that is not sold is either donated to Salvation Army or sold for scrap. “In our second year of doing the sale, [Dr. Higgin] had the brilliant idea of using the help from Day of Service to work on sorting/organizing clothes (something that we were doing on our own, previously). Most of the work actually takes place outside of the Day of Service, although it’s certainly helpful to have that workforce on DOS.”

“This all was made possible through the efforts from all of the volunteers.” Ms. Freitag explained, “ [Dr. Higgin] and I are certainly the driving force but we certainly couldn’t do it by ourselves! There have been a number of faculty members who have gone above and beyond for the project. Lois Stival was absolutely instrumental this year, and Quint Clarke and Sarah O’Neill have been phenomenal in their help too; so many people have chipped in where they’re able to, and it’s the cumulative effect of all those many helpers that creates a wave of energy that gets it all done!” Dr. Higgin agreed, “With each year we’ve gotten more help from the wider community, which has been amazing. And this past year [Ms. Freitag] really took the lead since I was heavily pregnant for DOS and move out, and had a very new newborn in the run-up to this year’s sale. She did an amazing job growing the project even more and organizing the help we needed to get everything done and done well. This year we had a lot more help from faculty and students which was awesome.”

With the help of other faculty and students, the two began growing the sale.  “In our first year, we raised $4,000. The next year we raised $8,000, and this year we expect to be at $13,000 once we receive all the money from our online consignment sales. (So, $25,000 in three years! No small feat.)” Over the last 3 years, Blair has been able to cycle hundreds of items (which otherwise would have been thrown out) into new homes of the tag sale shoppers. The sale had a wide variety of items, some vintage and some brand new. A satisfied customer shared that he got “like, the coolest hat ever.” Others went home with valuables that they purchased at an unbeatable price.

The Blair community is thrilled to be able to support such a meaningful cause as Blair in Kenya. Through the last few years, Blair has been able to more fully support its counterpart through events such as the tag sale. Students, locals, and parents were all very generous in their support of the sale as well as donations, pushing the grand total of the sale’s profit to over $13,000, all of which directly funds Blair in Kenya.

Dr. Higgin shared: “As a day student at a boarding school, I remember helping my friends pack up and seeing what got abandoned because there just wasn’t enough space in their suitcases or parents’ cars to take it all home. When a person lives in a place for a whole school year, they accumulate a lot more than they realize! I was always alarmed by so much nice stuff: designer clothes, printers, etc, just getting throw out. It struck me as bad for the environment and wasteful when those things could be reused or at least donated to people in need or sold to raise money for people in need. All schools where students live– high school, college, etc.– have this problem. (It’s kind of an embarrassing problem, and one I wanted to do something about in my new community. I knew it would be an issue at Blair too because it is in every boarding situation. I was really lucky to find a willing, equally driven, and similarly motivated partner in [Ms. Freitag] when I arrived here. We launched this huge project at the end of my first year at Blair and it’s only grown in scope (and profits!) since. Less makes it into the dumpsters, and we raise more money for an amazing cause.”

Blair in Kenya is providing elementary school children with medical care, food, clothing, and an education. Blair In Kenya is a school that was established by Blair faculty member, Quint Clarke, in conjunction with alumnus, Kelvin Serem. Kelvin Serem was born in Iten, Kenya; then later in life he had the opportunity to attend school at Blair Academy. After he graduated, he attended Lafayette College. Soon after, he began to bring aspects of his education in America back to his hometown.

“Over the past 12 years, BIK has delivered over 25,000 pounds of clothes, shoes, computers and medical supplies, we have raised more than $300,000 towards educational programs, and we operate a micro-finance lender with over $20,000.  We are now running two schools, sponsoring over 150 children in their educational pursuits, operating a micro-credit lender, and providing significant medical support to needy people.” quote provided by (http://www.blairinkenya.com/)

Since the school was established, it has only grown in both enrollment and impact on the well-being of the students’ physical health and education. Blair in Kenya continues to change the lives of local people and inspire others to make a difference. Overall, the sale was a huge success. Ms. Freitag and Dr. Higgin both hope to continue the growth of the sale next year. More information about Blair in Kenya and donation opportunities can be found at http://www.blairinkenya.com/.

Elizabeth Negvesky

Editor

Elizabeth Negvesky, 16, is a three year junior at Blair Academy from northeast Pennsylvania. She is excited to be joining the Oracle team as senior editor for the 2018-2019 school year. Her interests include writing, yoga, pottery, and archery. She looks forward to growing the Oracle in closer conjunction with the interests of Blair’s diverse student community.