ministry profile:

Flea Market Team Brings Out the Fun at Dutilh Church

The Flea Market team gathers before a planning meeting in April.

The Flea Market team gathers before a planning meeting in April.

“The camaraderie among the volunteers is one of the best things about the flea market. It’s how I’ve gotten to know most of the people I know in this church.”
— Kate Bryant
“Everybody who helps with this event loves God. They do it to benefit others and to benefit the church”
— Kay Rimer
“People realize how much work goes into this event, but they don’t realize how much fun it is.”
— Kate Bryant
“An older gentleman asked me once how much longer I thought he could keep doing this work. I looked over at Betty and said, ‘She’s 90! You have years yet.’”
— Kay Rimer

Dutilh Church’s flea market team will host its tenth annual event this summer, and the committee’s members could not be happier.

Although Dutilh has hosted a flea market off and on since 1993, the event in its current form started in 2010 when Kate Bryant approached Kay Rimer and invited her to co-organize the flea market that year. Bryant says she doesn’t know what prompted her enthusiasm to kick-start an event that had been canceled the previous year—but she is glad she did it.

“The camaraderie among the volunteers is one of the best things about the flea market,” Bryant said. “It’s how I’ve gotten to know most of the people I know in this church.”

Rimer echoed similar sentiments. “We joke around and tease each other,” Rimer said, explaining that the fellowship among the volunteers makes the long days enjoyable.

The core team includes Bryant and Rimer, Diane Antolic, Barb Barnett, Susan Boddy, Mollie Cotten, Vicki Frishkorn, Ken Frishkorn, Dee Hamerly, Myrna Hanna, Jeanne Moss, Cindy Smeltzer, Louise Warner, and Sue Woods.

The team puts in some lengthy hours, indeed. One challenge of the flea market is that volunteers execute the entire event over the course of seven days. Though planning begins months ahead of time, the committee has things down to a science and typically only has three or four meetings, Rimer explained. The bulk of the on-site work happens from the Sunday before the flea market through the Saturday of the event itself.

At noon on Sunday, the team begins accepting daily donations of items for the flea market. Over the course of five days, all items are cleaned, sorted, and readied for sale. Plant and bake sale donations are accepted starting on Thursday.

The flea market officially begins just before noon on Friday, when the volunteers gather to pray. Rimer said they pray for the people who will walk through their doors and for the success of the event, which is Dutilh’s major fundraiser each year. At 12:00 p.m., the doors open.

Dutilh’s flea market stands out, Rimer said, both because it is a form of community outreach and because it is so well organized.

“We clean everything before it gets put out, and our prices are good. Everything is neat, organized, and well displayed,” Rimer said. “People who do not have a lot of money can come here and get the things they need.”

The outreach happens on a variety of levels. In addition to funding so many church projects and ministries, the flea market is one way that people throughout the community know Dutilh Church.

“Everybody who helps with this event loves God. They do it to benefit others and to benefit the church,” Rimer said.

Dee Hamerly, who has been an active volunteer for the last seven years, explained, “We do reach people. People see our happiness and want to know about the church. I have invited flea market shoppers to come to our church.”

Rimer said one of the more touching stories she remembers from the flea market was when a young boy asked his mom for a toy car while they were in the check-out line. After the mother told her son they could not afford the item, a man standing in line bought it for him.

Another time, Rimer said, a gentleman stopped off at the flea market because he was traveling home to New York and had run out of funds. Pastor Jim Gascoine drove the man to the bus station and paid for his ticket home through the pastor’s discretionary fund.

Hamerly’s most memorable flea market moment has to do with the power of Dutilh’s volunteer community. She said that the last Saturday of the event often coincides with the church’s Confirmation dinner, creating a need to clean up the entire church quickly to transition from one event to the next. Last year, approximately 30 additional volunteers answered the flea market team’s call for help.

“We had so much help—which we needed,” Hamerly explained. “The whole thing was done in two hours. I couldn’t believe it!”

Rimer’s favorite part of the experience is the way the flea market brings people of all ages together. Rimer remembers Jason Boddy, now 13, helping out when he was only four years old and Jake Thomas, now 14, who has been assisting in the toy department with his mom, Laurie Thomas, and Barb Barnett since he was nine. Bryant’s daughter May Agarwal, now 13, has been assisting since she was three. Rimer said the oldest volunteers she remembers are Betty Baldridge and Grace Parker, both of whom passed away recently.

“An older gentleman asked me once how much longer I thought he could keep doing this work,” Rimer said. “I looked over at Betty and said, ‘She’s 90! You have years yet.’”

Rimer said people often fail to realize the reach of this event. Items not purchased are donated to other charitable organizations and the proceeds fund a variety of church projects, including camperships, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), the quilting ministry, youth mission trips, a lawnmower, large items for the church kitchen, new bathrooms and carpeting in the preschool area, and more.

The biggest surprise for most people, Bryant said, is the fun-factor.

“People realize how much work goes into this event,” Bryant said, “but they don’t realize how much fun it is.”

To learn more, check out the flea market online. To get involved as a volunteer, contact Bryant or Rimer. The flea market team welcomes volunteers of all ages, for as much or as little time as each person wants to give.