Soroptimists take over annual fundrasier sale

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Heidi Desch / Whitefish Pilot Whitefish Soroptimist vice president Bonnie Baker, Sam and Ruth Neff, and Soroptimist president Lynn Grossman gather inside the Thrift Haus downtown. Whitefish Soroptimist is taking over the annual fundraiser yard sale started by the Neffs 15 years ago to raise money for two global relief organizations.

For roughly 15 years Sam and Ruth Neff have organized and ran, along with the help of volunteers, an annual fundraiser yard sale at their home.

But this year it became apparent that the demands of the sale, which benefits Doctors without Borders and International Rescue Committee, had become too much and many of their volunteers could no longer assist with the sale. So the Neffs went searching for a group to take over so donations could continue for the two organizations. The Whitefish Soroptimist club has stepped in to take over the sale, which will now be run out of the nonprofit’s Thrift Haus downtown.

“It’s a great relief,” Sam said of the Soroptimist willingness to take over. “It’s great to put our efforts with that of the Soroptimists and it’s a very good feeling to get their support.”

Soroptimist International is a volunteer service organization for women who work to improve the lives of women, girls and children in local, national and world communities. The local club for decades has used its Thrift Haus to raise funds for other nonprofits.

For four days, Sept. 28- Oct. 1, the Thrift Haus will donate 100 percent of its proceeds from store sales to the two organizations previously benefited by the Neff’s yard sale.

Lynn Grossman, president of Whitefish Soroptimist, said the club was happy to step in and take over the sale.

“Doctors without Borders and International Rescue Committee are perfect examples of our mission to empower women and help children,” she said.

Doctors Without Borders is an international organization known for delivering emergency medical aid to people affected by conflict, epidemics and disasters of exclusion from health care. The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises and helps people whose lives and livelihoods are shattered by conflict and disaster to survive, recover, and gain control of their future.

The annual sale at the Neff’s home had become a fall staple in Whitefish. Shoppers knew to watch for signs that the sale was open and folks knew the Neffs as a place where donations could be made.

Prior to moving to Whitefish, the Neffs held similar fundraiser yard sales at their home in Indiana. Having a strong interest in foreign affairs and Ruth’s background as a nurse influenced the organizations they selected. After Hurricane Katrina they also gave a portion of the donations to the American Red Cross.

When they began the sale in 2001 total donations amounted to about $800. By 2010 the yearly proceeds had risen to more than $7,000 and last year the sale produced $17,263 divided between the two charities.

The couple say they had no idea that the work of these two organizations would become of such critical importance in the world when they began the sales in 2001.

“Since 2001 we have seen both Whitefish and the broader North Valley area take on this yearly sale as a community project to provide aid to those in need, even if they are far away,” Sam said. “People from many parts of the valley have contributed through donations and sales, as well as helping with the more mundane tasks of setting up, running and cleaning up the sale.”

The Thrift Haus is located at 303 First St. in Whitefish; store hours are 12 to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and noon to 4 p.m. Saturday. Soroptimist International of Whitefish operates the thrift store with an all-volunteer workforce to raise money for other nonprofits with a focus on improving the lives of women and girls.

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