Declutter for a Cause 2014: The Fundraiser That Dressed Up a Community
The team rejoiced: There were wares to sell. But then they stressed about weather. The forecast called for 90-degree heat and thunderstorms, and the sale was to be held on the Freedman Home's terrace. Brown went into denial: At the mere mention of rain, she'd shriek, "Don't say that!"
The night before the event, after 12 sweaty hours of dragging dozens of heavy boxes into the Freedman Home, then pricing and hanging donations, Alvarez and her friends shared pizza in the stately building, laughing so loudly a security guard asked if they could keep it down.
"I'm tired," said Alvarez, splayed out in a chair. She began tossing out ideas for the event's proceeds. "I want to start an inspirational-speaking tour for boys," she said. "There are programs for the top tier and the neediest tier, but what about the people in the middle?"
Then the talk turned to the cuteness of Blue Ivy Carter, the struggles of large-breasted women and restaurants where the group could share mimosas when all of this was over.
"As you get older, you don't see your tribe as much as you'd like," Alvarez said. "So to get together like this...."
Before she could tear up, Brown cut her off: "There's no crying in event planning!"
The next morning Alvarez dragged clothing racks out the front door of the Freedman Home as Nneka styled the tie station. Another friend, Janelle, trained the cashiers to check out customers using iPads borrowed from her job. Alvarez's sister Lissette decided the volunteers should wear some of the sillier donated ties (starting with the one featuring a pig playing a trumpet). At 9 A.M., Walsh appeared, sized up Alvarez and concluded, "I don't want to get in her way—she'll run me down."
By 10:30, DJ ShortyLove was blasting Iggy Azalea, and Janelle was celebrating the first sale (total: $60). By noon, another friend, Doris, was helping a group of men try on shoes donated by Rockport and Sperry Top-Sider, and Janelle was up-selling customers at the register. At 12:30, Alvarez and Walsh auctioned off $100 gift cards donated by Kohl's.
Amazingly, there was no rain—just heat. As the temperature climbed into the 80s, shoppers rushed the coolers of donated Resource Natural Spring Water as if stocking up for a hurricane. But by 3 P.M., the event was bathed in shade. A lanky 16-year-old named Isaias shopped with his mother for Rockports, which he needed for the youth organizing campaigns he's working on. "I was meeting with the public advocate, and my mom was like, 'Man, I don't have any shoes for you!'" he said.
Walsh, fanning himself, scanned the men pulling blazers from racks and said admiringly, "Evelyn's got people on fire."
When it was all over, the You Move Me guys hauled away the extra clothes (bound for Alvarez's apartment, to furnish sales planned for the fall), and Janelle broke out a bottle of champagne. Alvarez offered a toast: "To teamwork, which makes the dream work!" Someone else added, "And to—no offense—it being over!"
During the final hour of the event, while other dehydrated volunteers leaned on chairs to stay upright, Alvarez twerked happily on the lawn. "It's amazing to see kids' faces light up when they get their first tie, their first suit," she said later. "There's something empowering about knowing you're presenting the best version of yourself to the world."