Church yard sale builds bridge to community

July 25, 2006|by MARIE GILBERT

HAGERSTOWN - Shana Jones has learned to downsize her dreams.

As a teenager, she pictured herself with a career, living in a comfortable home and traveling the world.

Today, as a single mother with two children and a limited income, her only thoughts are of finding ways to make ends meet.

So Saturday morning, instead of heading to the mall, she headed to a yard sale to find clothes for her growing daughters.

"I can't afford the prices that are out there, but I can afford a quarter for a pair of shorts." Jones said. "That's my reality."


Jones was among hundreds of area residents who attended a community yard sale Saturday at Hope Bridge Church in the west end of Hagerstown.

She also is part of a population that the Rev. Pete Zerphy believes often is forgotten.

"Poverty here is not as bad as it might be in an inner city, but it certainly exists in Hagerstown and in Washington County," Zerphy said. "There is need - and a lot of need is in this neighborhood."

As pastor of Hope Bridge Church, Zerphy looks at the yard sale as a way of "meeting the community and giving to the community." But he also looks at it as an opportunity to identify those people who might need a helping hand.

"Many people are too proud to ask for help," he said. "Others are grateful for any help you can give them. By talking with people, we can find out who is struggling. This yard sale is not about money. It's about love."

Merchandise for the yard sale, which covered the entire church parking lot, ran the gamut - from clothing and toys to household items and computers.

All items, donated by church members, were priced very low, Zerphy said. And for those unable to afford those prices, they were given the item free.

Everyone attending the sale received a $5 certificate that could be used toward their purchases. There also was a chance to win free groceries.

For those who came hungry, the church served breakfast and lunch at no charge.

According to Zerphy, this is the second year Hope Bridge has sponsored the yard sale, which he expects will become an annual event.

Zerphy said church members distributed fliers and more than 2,000 door hangers throughout the neighborhood to make people aware of the yard sale.

"Our efforts seem to have paid off," he said. "Last year, we had about 500 people show up. This year, we've had more than 250 people come through during the first hour and a half."

Zerphy said people attending the yard sale were representative of the community - families, single mothers and older residents, with a lot of racial diversity.

"We're a multicultural church, so this is a perfect fit for us," he said.

Zerphy said Hope Bridge spent $3,000 on this year's yard sale, with all of the money coming from the church's budget.

"This is what we do," he said. "We're all about giving."

Also helping with the yard sale was Zerphy's wife, Kelly, who worked her way around the parking lot meeting people and answering questions.

"People are very appreciative to be able to buy items that they otherwise might not be able to afford," she said. "Mothers are finding clothes for their children. We have shoes, books and lamps. And where else could you buy a computer for $10?"

Church member Colista Shoemaker said she looked at the yard sale as a way to share love and make a connection with the community.

"A lot of people are barely making it in this world," she said. "This is just one way of letting them know someone cares."

Zerphy said the yard sale is one of many programs and events Hope Bridge offers to the community.

"Last year, we bought school supplies for about 20 children - pencils, backpacks, Kleenex, everything they needed," he said. "We've also held an Easter egg hunt, and we sponsor a Little League team."

The church also offers a free counseling center.

"If there's a problem, we want people to know we're here for them," Zerphy said.

As pastor, Zerphy said he works on a daily basis with people who are struggling through life.

"We can ignore it, or we can do something about it," he said. "I've seen children in the freezing temperatures of winter with no coats or socks. So we find clothes for them. There are kids who are hungry, whose families can't afford to feed them. So on Tuesdays and Saturdays, we offer meals."

"We're asked to love our neighbor as ourselves," Zerphy said. "Christians have not always done a good job of that. We're trying to live up to what's expected of us as best we can."

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