From thrift shop to eBay
to Catholic Charities
By JILL RAGAR ESFELD
Catholic News Service
OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (CNS) -- As a volunteer at TurnStyles, the thrift store of Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas in Overland Park, Tom White is on the hunt for donated items that prove the old adage: “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”
As a member of its elite eBay team, in fact, the parishioner at Holy Spirit Church in Overland Park has been trained to recycle that donated “trash” into the “treasure” that will keep Catholic Charities programs rolling -- with a little help from cyberspace shoppers. Not too long ago, for example, White’s eyes kept falling on an odd piece of office equipment in the furniture section of the thrift store. “It looked like an old adding machine or something,” he said. “They had $3 marked on it.”
The item sat on display for a couple of weeks, but nobody bought it. Finally, White’s curiosity got the best of him.
“I went to the Internet and checked it out,” he said. The old adding machine was actually one of the first Hollerith punch card machines, built under contract for the U.S. Census Bureau to calculate the 1890 census.
White posted the item online at the TurnStyles eBay store. It was purchased by a California museum for $300.
“I’ve had higher sales,” White confessed. “But that was the most satisfying because I salvaged a piece of history.”
Since the eBay Team was formed four years ago, it has sold to customers in all 50 states and 30 countries around the world, generating more than $56,000 for Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas.
“We’ve got a gold mine going here,” said head volunteer and eBay team leader Ron Behm.
“I’m proud of the fact that we offer people an opportunity to volunteer their time, and we’ll give them a skill,” he said.
Behm also has a bulletin board in the sorting room where he acknowledges volunteers who have found exceptional eBay items.
Some recent home runs include: Rogers Brothers antique silver plate flatware, $610; an antique German grandfather wall clock, $300; a metal detector, $420; and a George Jensen sterling silver bracelet, $455.
“And those successes don’t come from any particular skill set,” said Behm. “It’s called luck.”