Stettler IODE charity rummage sale cancelled after seven decades of service

After seven decades of events a Stettler-area charitable organization has cancelled its huge annual rummage sale, saying the tiny group can no longer sponsor the event.

The I.O.D.E. (IODE)’s annual community rummage sale was easily one of the largest such events in the region, held for decades in Stettler, a staple of the community’s autumn season. However, members of the IODE said they’ve decided to cancel the sprawling event after the workload became too much for a group numbering only five members.

IODE President Jennifer Lindstrom and Vice-President and rummage coordinator Vivian Lowther agreed the decision to move on from the event was bittersweet, as the proceeds of the rummage sale benefitted literally dozens and dozens of other charities over the years. However, the sale is finished.

“We folded the sale,” said Lindstrom at the ECA Review office in Stettler Sept. 29.

Lowther added, “It was a hard decision and I know I will miss it. It was just getting too much.”

The ladies stated that the rummage sale had been the major annual fundraiser for the IODE, with every dollar raised going back into the Stettler community or other worthy charitable causes.

Some of the routes that IODE rummage sale funds followed into the community included school awards, scholarships, books for schools and much more. Lindstrom noted the IODE often went out of their way to ensure smaller groups and charities also benefitted, not just the large ones.

Lindstrom stated the rummage sale has been a popular, dependable source of charitable revenue, adding this year’s sale, held in May, was down a bit but still met all of its funding goals.

The sale filled both the agriplex and the curling rink with lost treasures and previously loved goods.

Lowther explained the IODE organized and ran the sale, including accepting the items dropped off at the venues for sale and setting up the tables. Then volunteers classified the donations, usually into the “big ticket” building with large equipment and furniture, and the regular building, that hosted clothing for sale and just about anything else a bargain hunter could’ve imagined.

The ladies also agreed you could never predict what could end up at the sale, as some items of impressive value were donated and even some that looked brand new.

Lindstrom said the “specialty table” sometimes had expensive crystal on it, while other tables could have one of a kind dolls or antiques. There was always plenty of artwork to peruse while those looking for clothing had a goldmine to plumb.

However, it became increasingly clear to IODE members they couldn’t sponsor the sale anymore with no help and no other group interested in taking it over.

Organizing and carrying out an event of that scale was no mean feat either, as assigning the volunteer work and handling donations could be stressful. Lindstrom noted many people requested the IODE come pick up donations, which the president noted was logistically impossible for a club with five members, the oldest of which is 97 years old.

The ladies noted recruiting volunteers wasn’t an easy job, and even when people agreed to help out some wouldn’t show as they agreed.

IODE’s annual rummage sale ran in Stettler for 77 years and the president estimated it generated between $10,000 and $20,000 in revenue every year.

Lindstrom and Lowther noted the Stettler chapter currently only has five members and recruiting efforts haven’t borne much fruit. It’s seems difficult to get people interested in joining service clubs like the IODE, Lindstrom said.

The ladies agreed it was always great fun and quite rewarding to organize and sponsor the rummage sale, as bargain hunters would sometimes line up outside the facility and down the parking lot waiting to get in.

Both also expressed gratitude to those who supported and volunteered at the rummage sale as an event of that magnitude required the aid of many people.

Looking ahead, Lindstrom said the IODE wants to continue but understands service clubs face challenges, saying the club will continue, “...but our future doesn’t look very bright.”

IODE stands for “Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire,” an independent non-profit society originally founded in 1900 with the goal of women helping other women and children and promoting patriotism. The IODE has a chapter system, with the Stettler chapter mostly recently meeting of the United Church on the first Monday of the month.

Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, East Central Alberta Review