SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — Joan Garceau, 86, of Narragansett, goes to many yard sales, giveaways to give to others, especially veterans. Her late father was cared for in a veteran’s hospital.
“There are people out there who have a need and God wants us to help,” she said in a brief interview while picking up certain items and examining them Saturday at the South County Church of Christ giveaway of thousands of free items.
“I am blessed to be able to do it,” said Garceau, as she thumbed through some clothes.
Under a large pavilion next to the church, were tables with piles of books, clothes, toys, electronic equipment and jewelry that church members collected in the last year. More than 40 families came to its annual “Free Sale” by the church.
“Whenever I pick something, I need to know what I’m going to do with it,” she said, explaining, “It has to have a name – a name of who it’s going to go to.”
Garceau said that she grew up in a tenement building in Woonsocket and her mother and father had to work hard to provide for the family. Among the items she looked at were books that people — especially those in a veteran’s home — can use.
This didn’t surprise organizer Pam Campbell. “People are amazed that it’s free. They pick up something, ask how much it costs and we tell them ‘free.’ They are so surprised,” said Campbell, wife of church Pastor Clarence Campbell.
Garceau’s attitude symbolizes the spirit of the program, said both Campbells.
“It gives to the community. It’s for free and we don’t ask for donations. We’re not some dead place. We like to come outside of those four walls,” said Clarence Campbell, emphasizing the desire to an integral part of the South County Community’s needs.
As if the materials offered for free reflect an image of the church members themselves, he added, “We don’t give junk. We want the community to see a picture of who we really are.”
His wife, Pam, said that the 40 families came between 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Last year that number hovered around 80, she noted.
“I think it was COVID. People were is such great need last year,” but also conceded that hurricane preparations in the last day before the storm also may have drawn attention away.
She looked around at the hundreds of items that still remained. They are destined for other storefronts charities and other organizations that serve the needy.
“Everyone who has come here has walked away with something,” said church member Jerry Tetreault of Exeter and who was helping with the event this year, and remarked about the large number of donated items to the church.
Charitable giving, whether in cash donations or material items has seen an increase in the last year.
Charitable giving in the U.S. reached a record $471.44 billion in 2020, as individual Americans, corporations, and foundations made contributions in response to Covid-19 pandemic and racial justice efforts, according to Giving USA Foundation’s annual report released Tuesday.
Total giving increased 5.1% year over year in current dollars, and is up 3.8% after adjusting for inflation, according to the report, “Giving USA 2021: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2020,” which is published by the Giving USA Foundation.
“Some sources of philanthropy are shaped by the performance of equity markets. Therefore, giving from individuals and from foundations both saw strong growth,” Laura MacDonald, chair of the Giving USA Foundation and CEO of Benefactor Group, told Barron’s financial magazine.
Whatever way it comes, helping is important to organizations wanting to make a difference to members of a community, said Pam Campbell, and in this church’s view they can come from anywhere and leave with as much as they like.
It comes right down to even helping leave with their new items.
“We had a lady come on a bike to pick out things,” she said. “One of our members took her home with her things. Should couldn’t peddle back with them.”