Movers from 1-800-GOT-JUNK? unloading cargo.

A Plan Takes Shape

The date was set for June 1, a Saturday when the weather would be warm but the kids would still be in school, meaning families wouldn't yet have left on summer trips. O watched in amazement as Bates whipped dozens of friends, relatives, neighbors, soccer moms, teenagers, town officials and local restaurateurs (not to mention her husband, Andy, and children, Colin, 8, and Caroline, 6) into an event-planning frenzy. She appointed 12 committee members—some friends, others acquaintances or friends of friends—to oversee marketing, a silent auction, cleanup and more. She found a (free) location: the Abbot School, a gorgeous, red-brick public elementary with a large gym and plenty of outdoor space for tents. She finagled storage units (also free) to collect the truckloads of clothing, appliances, furniture, glassware, framed prints and baby gear that would soon be streaming in from friends' and neighbors' houses. She filed permits and insurance forms and advertised donation drop-off dates on a Facebook page. She even secured 150 free T-shirts for volunteers from Her e-mails arrived in O in-boxes at all hours of the day, between school pickups and doctor's appointments, and long after her family had gone to bed. "Two and 3 A.M. was the new normal in our house," sighs Andy, affectionately.

With several weeks to go, Bates and her troops began sorting and pricing donations at the storage facilities, at friends' houses, and in her own living room, which had become command central. Pizza was involved. Terri Delaney, Bates's neighbor and the volunteer chair, worked with high schools and churches to get her teenage helpers community service credit and offered her pool for a pre-event bash. Then Walsh stepped in with another crucial piece of the puzzle: support from 1-800-GOT-JUNK? After he sent an e-mail to the junk removal service's CEO, whom he'd gotten to know through his work on The Oprah Winfrey Show, three local franchises generously offered 17 trucks—staffed with plenty of muscle—to transport donations to the Abbot School and remove excess items after the sale. "You just don't realize how much people are willing to help until you ask," marvels Bates, who had become increasingly bold in soliciting free goods and services. As donations piled up, she sent a Facebook message to Store Supply Warehouse, asking for clothing racks—and within two days found them sitting outside her garage. She recalls, "It got to the point that, when people would say no, I'd be like, 'What?!'"

Next: Finding "euphoric calm"


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