ONLY TWO AND A HALF BUT ALREADY AN INSTITUTION, OFFBEAT ARTIFACTS RAISES $25,000 FOR SEA CLIFF LIBRARY WHILE PROMOTING COMMUNITY
August 20, 2014 -- Beginning modestly with a table displaying an assortment of small second-hand items, and evolving over two and half years into an event that attracts bargain seekers from across Long Island and New York City, Offbeat Artifacts has hit the $25,000 mark in funds raised for the Sea Cliff Library. Sponsored by the Friends of the Sea Cliff Library, the tag sale fundraiser that has set up shop on the Village Green nearly every other week (even enduring winter cold) could not be more appropriately named - offering items for sale that are as varied and sometimes quirky as the community it calls home.
The mainstay of the operation has been 25 year village resident Mike Lennon, who can be found at every one of the sales enthusiastically greeting customers and hauling pieces. Mr. Lennon, a twice retired New York City fireman on the Lower East side of Manhattan before and after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, understands very well the importance of teamwork in any operation’s success. Minimizing his own role in Offbeat Artifacts, Mr. Lennon is quick to offer credit to others for this enterprise. Always using “we” and “us”, rather than "I", as he enthusiastically explains the operation, he says that “everyone is a part of the effort with many volunteers making it happen.”
It is clear that much more goes into the sale than setting up shop on Saturday morning. Mr. Lennon and other volunteers collect items each month - some that have been discarded curbside; others that have been donated and retrieved from a home by Mr. Lennon; and still others that Offbeat Artifacts has been alerted to by DPW workers at the village yard. The array of artifacts that have been sold is vast - from small pieces of art and home furnishings to large tables, chairs, sofas, and desks, as well as games, sporting goods, costume jewelry, and lawn maintenance tools. A press for ironing linens at a prison was once put up for sale as was a cricket bat, and a scuba diving suit. One woman donated two wedding dresses – one her grandmother’s that had been worn at the turn of the 20th century, and the other, her mother’s from the 1930's. The sale, he says, offers people the opportunity to “part with a once cherished item so that it now can be cherished by other families.”
Mr. Lennon is quick to offer a small gift to children who show up with their parents to the sale. For instance, on one Saturday, Henry, a Sea Cliff School third grader, was handed a baseball. “We always have something for the kids,” he says. “The parents stay longer because the kids are happy.”
Sea Cliff Photographer, Geri Reichgut, who has put together a photographic essay documenting the sale over an entire year that will be exhibited at the Library this September, sees both environmental and social benefits to be derived from Offbeat Artifacts. “This event is recycling at its finest. . . .This sale is a novel approach which brings new life for cherished treasures through a unique social experience which financially benefits the Sea Cliff Library.”
After a sale, Mr. Lennon often delivers particularly large items to buyers’ homes.
Overall, Mr. Lennon says that about 60% of items sold on Saturdays come from Compassionate Cleanouts, a small business he started with Sea Cliff resident Lisa Harir, that provides packing, moving, and estate sale services, and that cleans out unwanted items from homes of people who for one reason or another are looking to reduce clutter. The remaining 40% comes through donations from community members. About a dozen residents offer a portion of their garage for storage in advance of a sale – sometimes for as long as a month. Unsold items are rarely brought back for a second sale, and unfortunately, because of limited storage space, usually end up at the village dump.
In explaining his motivation to start Offbeat Artifacts, Mr. Lennon says that “the library is one of the greatest resources that the village has” and that his family has benefited greatly from its services with his four children who grew up in Sea Cliff having gone through its programs at both the Children’s and Adult branches.
Although organized to raise funds for the library, Mr. Lennon, OBA volunteers, and many residents have seen other benefits derived from the sales – especially in promoting community and volunteerism.
“The single most satisfying aspect to this,” Mr. Lennon says, “is that all the people who help out look forward to it. We all get great satisfaction out of seeing the small town chemistry – it’s the kind of thing that most people don’t have in their lives anymore.”
The sale has become “a central gathering place in Sea Cliff,” says Ms. Reichgut “for families, teenagers, couples just starting out and looking to furnish their homes and apartments, local residents walking their dogs, flea market aficionados, artists and those who enjoy getting up early on a Saturday morning to see what's new on the Village Green.”
As for the proceeds from the sales – all of that goes to the not-for profit Friends of the Sea Cliff Library, and it is up to their discretion to decide how the money is spent. So far funds raised have gone towards purchasing computers, I-Pads, e-readers, furniture for the children’s library and museum passes.
This past Saturday, Offbeat Artifacts found itself with a new neighbor – the Sea Cliff Farmers Market run by Amy Peters and that is open for business on Saturday mornings from 9 am to 1 pm in front of the Village Green on Central Avenue. “The more the merrier! It's always great when you can bring people downtown,” Mr. Lennon exclaimed. “They both complement each other.”
As he considers the future of Offbeat Artifacts, Mr. Lennon says that it is his hope and of those who help with the sale “that younger families will carry this tradition and that this will become an institution.”
Early this past Sunday morning, Mr. Lennon welcomed residents – both volunteers and customer/donors to the steps of the Adult Library for a group photograph to commemorate having raised $25,000 in support of an institution that has been so central to village life.
"It is very Sea Cliff—filled with community spirit, quirkiness, artistry and a touch of elegance," said Carol Poll, President of Friends of the Sea Cliff Library, to Northwordnews. "The Friends are deeply appreciative of all the very hard work of Mike Lennon and his “angels” -- Lisa Harir, Peggy Brucia, Mimi Leipzig, Jeanne Millspaugh, Cathy Pickering, Roz Polisano, and Maria Stieglitz who regularly work with him. We also are grateful to Mayor Bruce Kennedy and to Village Trustees for their continued support for Offbeat Artifacts."
The next sale will be on Saturday, September 6, with Ms. Reichgut’s photographic essay opening reception to be held, at the Library of course, the following day.
Going forward, the sale will be held once monthly with the goal of raising $1,000 per sale.
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