In Centretown, the idea of recycling goods and possessions so others can use them is so ingrained it’s practically a way of life. Centretowners as a group are expert repurposers, upcyclers and bargain finders; garage sales and craft shows are an integral part of how the neighbourhood functions.
With this in mind, a neighbourhood-wide garage sale seems almost inevitable. In fact, it’s probably more surprising that up until now there hasn’t been one.
Inspired by the hugely successful Great Glebe Garage Sale, community builder and Centretown resident Wynn Quon decided that it was high time Centretown got in on the action. The neighbourhood will play host to the first ever Super Centretown Garage Sale on Saturday, Sept 7, rain or shine.
“I’ve been a resident of Centretown for probably 40 years, and it’s been a great place to live, a great place to grow up. And I’ve been semi-retired for a little while, and I thought it would be a good time to give back to the community in some way,” Quon says.
In typical Centretown fashion, the organization process has been very grassroots. Quon picked a date and built a website, and pretty soon the sellers began signing up. “One of the challenges is because it’s such a big area,” he says. “The challenge is to get that sort of critical mass where there’s going to be several hundred people that are going to be putting something out for sale, and then that would be enough of a magnet to draw the crowds in.”
Quon also has another motivation for organizing the garage sale. As the volunteer director of the board of the Centretown Community Health Centre, he’s passionate about the organization and the work it does in the neighbourhood. “They have something like over 150 volunteers, and so for people to be really engaged like that, there’s something that’s very neat about that organization and the kind of work that they do,” he says.
Vendors are being asked to donate 10 percent of their proceeds to the CCHC to help it continue providing primary healthcare and social services to Centretown residents. “I think a third of the clients are low income, and there’s also the new arrivals, new Canadians, immigrants and marginalized nations and working with people with addictions,” says Quon of the centre’s broad reach. The CCHC is also known for its resources for the queer community, including programs for LGBT youth and seniors; Gay Zone Gaie, a sexual health clinic for gay men; and services for the trans community, including hormone assessments.
With Centretown arguably the most diverse neighbourhood in Ottawa, both ethnically and otherwise, what residents have in their basements is anyone’s guess. “It will add a certain flavour, I think,” Quon says. “What I think we’ll see is a lot more interesting set of things for sale.” Given Centretowners’ affinity for the swapping of stuff, he’s optimistic about how the inaugural event will go. “It’s sort of a very human thing to exchange on a street level as opposed to going to a department store and picking out something with a price tag on it. It’s a lot more grassroots.”