Among the hundreds in line Wednesday morning for the annual Price-less Day event in Morris were several who arrived in the wee hours of the morning to have the opportunity to get the choicest items.
The doors opened promptly at 7 a.m., and some were seen exiting with television sets, items of furniture, and children’s playsets before those farther down the line had even gotten through the doors.
This is the ninth year for First Christian Church’s Price-Less Day, and it remains wholly popular for area residents. The idea began as a kind of neighborhood trade, where residents would donate and bring in household items they found they didn’t need any more and come back a couple of days later to pick up some other things they might need. It proved a huge success and has been a popular event ever since.
And everything is free. No one pays for anything.
“Everybody has stuff in their house that they don’t need anymore,” said Margi Weber, FCC member and longtime Price-less Day volunteer. “This is a very green event. . . I really like serving at this. It does a lot of good, and especially now with the times.”
It’s almost like shopping at a store, Weber said, as all the “merchandise” is arranged by type. Purses are all in one area, as are belts, coffee mugs, men’s size large pants, children’s books, luggage, and coats.
Bonnie Kempiak, of Serena, was first in line with six of her children and nieces and nephews. She had to arrive before midnight for the honor. Her crew slept in sleeping bags at the door or in the car and brought basketballs and glow sticks for some midnight fun.
“It’s like camping,” she said. “I think this is just a blessing for people, and it’s just fun.
Kempiak said she had gone to the event a few years ago and remembered the long line. There’s a new grandchild in the family, and she said she would be looking for baby items. Others in her family were looking for electronics, clothes, and just whatever they found that suited their fancies.
Second in line were Sara Cherven and Kristin Stump, of Morris, who arrived at 5 a.m. Cherven said she would be looking for men’s jeans for her husband and clothes for the grandkids to start school, while Stump said she would scout for clothes and shoes.
There were thousands of items of clothing from which to choose, all in good shape and none stained or torn. Those were discarded before the event even began.
Also seen going out the door were stacks of blankets and bedding; two seed spreaders; wooden shelves; suitcases, both large and small; area rugs; videos such as “Titanic,” “Mrs. Doubtfire,” and “Speed;” tins; thermoses; a birdhouse; picture frames, some with pictures in them; trick-or-treat bags; flowers in pots; a humidifier; and multitudes of clothing items.
One “shopper” was outfitting an entire kitchen for her daughter, who was newly on her own.
Organizers were a little anxious about donations this year, with the economic downturn, but the community pulled through.
“I think there was at least as much as we had last year,” event co-organizer Diane King said. “Baby goods were down, but housewares were up.”
King described the church as “bursting” with goods.
“Every square inch was just full of stuff,” she said. “You name it, we had it.”
Fellow co-organizer Tanya Keech said the event went great this year.
“We had more donations,” she said. “They were down a third last year. This year, we had people drive up with pick-up loads.”
Organizing the event takes hundreds of volunteer hours of work each year.
“We’ve had a lot of fun,” Keech said, “but it’s very intense. But there is joy in knowing you’re going to meet people’s needs.”
Keech said one grandmother came through who had recently been given several grandchildren to care for. She went away with clothes for them, as well as shoes, jackets, and a lot more.
Jay and Delphina Spangler, of Mazon, were looking for clothes for their grandson and found several, as well as a jacket with a hood. They also found wheels for Jay’s trebuchet, which he explained was a medieval siege machine. They use it to throw water balloons for fun in the summer, he said.
“I think it’s really nice for this church to put it on,” Delphina said of Price-less Day. “I think it’s a great service to the community.”
Jeff Staley, of Minooka, had luck finding gifts for his family and friends. He came away with a ceramic teddy bear he plans on giving to a neighbor, windmill chimes for his mother, an Americana porcelain plate for a gift, and several other items he thinks he will give as Christmas gifts.
Some shoppers left with bags so full of clothes they could barely carry them. Many had to make a few trips out to their cars to stash items before running back in to gather more.
The event means a lot to church members, as well as to those who shop there.
“We want to show our community we care about them, and we care about their needs,” King said. “I want to show Jesus by what we do, not just preach about it.”
“Jesus told us to feed his sheep,” Keech said, “and we do this by providing for the physical needs of our members and our community.”