A Tribute to Rummage, A Look Ahead

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From the Winter 2010 Caller

This past November was Catlin Gabel’s final Rummage Sale. Forces that include changes in the way goods are sold in the digital age, the growth of second hand and discount retailers, and the shrinking pool of volunteers eroded the ability of this cherished 65-year tradition to raise the funds Catlin Gabel needs for financial aid. After the sale, it was time to find new ways to bring people of all ages together the way Rummage did, and to teach our students the lessons they could learn outside the classroom from Rummage. The Catlin Gabel community— students, teachers, staffers, parents, alumni, trustees, and friends—began working together to figure out What’s Next? at a meeting on January 23.

The group of more than 100 met in the Barn for most of the day to figure out what was important to them and to the school and wider communities through self-reflection and a series of group discussions led by past trustee and parent Mindy Clark. In addition, the event was streamed live on the website, and those off campus were able to participate online. Every idea and contribution was given respectful consideration at all times as the group worked towards final consensus at the end of the meeting. From smaller to larger groups, and then to the group as a whole, participants brainstormed ideas for what’s next, given a set of basic parameters. The final products were a list of events or activities that all agreed on, a list of what was agreed to be common ground, and a list of ideas that not every one agreed to, but that were important to some. No idea was thrown away, however—all ideas were captured and will be kept for future consideration.
Common ground—values that all thought should undergird what’s next— included attributes of multiple generations, physical activity, a learning component, a local connection to the community, a service component, financial sustainability, ability of students to run or organize the activity, and a way for the school community to bond or connect.
Projects, activities, or events that drew consensus were something to do with gardens, farms, or growing food (what one called a “Honey Hollow Farm resurrection”); a “Barn Raising” as a metaphor for building and working together on a specific project on or off campus; one specific event; a Catlin Gabel service corps; and an annual Campus Day connected to a worldwide day of service so that those who don’t live nearby can take part.
The day’s discussions are available online for everyone to see and to comment on. Members of the What’s Next steering committee will consider all the input and come back to the entire Catlin Gabel community with proposals for consideration. Whether it be one event, or many, or what shape it will take, remains to be seen. But what’s definite is that the community will decide, and try it out, and see what works. A new tradition may be born, or it may take time, but we will do it together.
We’ll never forget Rummage and the memories we have. Two stalwart volunteers reminisce here about what the Sale meant to them, and think about the directions we can go from here.