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Our View: Garage sale 'poachers' don't care about community

Another Woodbury Lions Club Spring Garage Sale has come and gone. This year's event was typical of those of the recent past.

According to Alex Hunt, the event's lead organizer, roughly 700 sites were official Lions Club Garage Sale "vendors" in 2009.

These community-minded folks paid $30 per registered site, well in advance of the weekend event, in order to be included in the club's garage sale directory of maps and item listings. The registration fees also entitled them to post a genuine Lions Club Garage Sale sign at their selling locale.

Thanks to these residents and the hard work of Lions Club volunteers, our community saw a steady procession of curious visitors prowling the city's neighborhoods May 8 and 9 in search of bargains.

In a number of locations, shoppers were met not only by good deals, but with good times.

Some garage sale "entrepreneurs" complemented their driveways and merchandise set-ups with food, beverages, music and other trappings one could expect to experience at a neighborhood block party.

Yes, these typical Lions Club Garage Sale elements were present in the event's 2009 edition.

Unfortunately, we also saw the predictable influx of cheapskates who staged garage sales without paying to register them with the Lions Club. They had no qualms about riding the event's coattails.

Lions Club members use diplomatic labels for these individuals: "Piggy backers" and "poachers."

(Not surprisingly, there are several other decidedly harsher names employed by a few of the club faithful. For editorial purposes, however, we'll stick with "poachers." )

Of course, holding an "unofficial" garage sale during the Lions Club weekend is not against the law. Tacky? Yes. Illegal? No.

But it does point out a character flaw in the poacher: They apparently don't care much for their community.

Some poachers cling to the quaint excuse, "Gee, I didn't know the Lions Club Garage Sale was this weekend."

Give us a break.

The reality is poachers are greedy and don't want to shell out $30. By taking this approach, they are depriving the community of several worthwhile efforts spearheaded by the Lions Club.

Proceeds from the garage sale registrations and $4 directories go into the Lion Club's project fund cash balance.

For 2008/2009, the money goes mainly towards eyesight and hearing programs, and assistance to individuals both locally and internationally through the International Lions Club.

Scholarships of around $9,000 are awarded to local students. The Lions Club also supports Woodbury's Veterans Memorial near City Hall.

After the expenses of the sales for directories, advertising, printing and signs, Hunt says all of the net proceeds go back to the community and especially to those in need. The club uses all proceeds from its fundraisers for nonprofit charitable purposes and general enrichment of our community.

None of the fundraising money is spent on Lions Club meetings. Those expenses are all paid by dues and fees from the members.

Although the Lions Club didn't track exactly how many poachers operated garage sales this year, a drive around Woodbury last Friday could make one speculate that there were more non-registered sales sites in business than registered ones.

The poachers' sales would not be nearly as successful if the Lions Club Garage Sale didn't attract so many people from all over Minnesota and surrounding states.

The club, Hunt said, spends a "substantial amount" of money promoting and advertising the event to make it successful for the people having sales.

Here's a suggestion for buyers making the rounds at next year's Lions Club Spring Garage Sale: Don't buy anything at a garage sale that isn't a registered site. Look for the official sign before spending your cash.

Perhaps that will send a not-so-subtle message to the poachers: Next time, ante up the $30 registration fee.

Think about that while you're at the bandshell in Ojibway Park or the fishing pier at Powers Lake -- two more Lions Club projects in Woodbury.

In addition to having a more successful garage sale, you'll demonstrate that you truly care for our community and not just your wallet.