Church Holds Garage Sale for Community… Gives Everything Away for Free

This falls under the category of “Things Christians Do That Atheists Need to Copy.”

In Hampden, Maine, the Community Church of the Open Door held a garage sale… but instead of selling off goods, they just gave everything away to members of the community.

Consider it a gesture of goodwill:

A community member acquires a refrigerator from the Community Church of the Open Door’s giveaway (via Bangor Daily News)

Hundreds of items, donated by church and community members, disappeared fast during the free yard sale.

“We started at 9 [a.m.] and we’re pretty much down to nothing and it’s only like 10:30,” said church member Holly Cain, of Dedham.

Cain, her husband, Zach, and fellow organizer Esther Littlefield of Glenburn are on the church’s missions team. Around 20 church volunteers, including 4-year-old Eli Cain, helped to set up tables, display items and help people load the items they selected.

“We hope to make it an annual event,” Littlefield said.

People were so excited about the free yard sale, “We had people already here at 7:30 a.m.,” she said. Some participants offered money for the free items, but their offerings were turned down. The event was not about raising money, it was about giving back to the community, Littlefield said.

As far as I can tell, proselytizing wasn’t part of the event. So the church members did something awesome. The people in the community benefitted from their generosity. And I’m sitting here wondering why some of the bigger local atheist groups couldn’t do the same thing.

(Thanks to Kevin for the link!)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Ray Whiting

    “Things Christians Do That Atheists Need to Copy.”

    No, we don’t need to “copy”, because community giving stuff away for free, without proselytizing, already exists.  It’s called Freecycle and it runs 24/7/365.  
    Or did you mean that atheist groups, acting AS groups with an atheist identity, need to create an ‘event’ like this church did?  

  • Gordon Duffy

     I was going to mention Freecycle too. I’ve gotten (and given) so much on Freecycle. And it runs all year round.

  • Guest1

    No one needs to copy anything and make an ‘Atheist’ version. Good ideas are good ideas, and they’re all apart of our shared human heritage, no matter where they came from.

  • secular1

    God gives things away for free while continuing to ignore War, Poverty, Disease, Racism, Homophobia, suppression of women, starvation and more!!!

  • Carl

    We have a free give away in our community once a year we leave what we don’t want on the curb and people go through and get what they want. No religion or other organization involved as it should be.

  • Andrew Hall

    Atheist groups DO need to do more of these kind of things. The group I’m with donates to the local food pantry monthly.

  • Silver_fox-trot

    I don’t mean to rain on your parade, but the one thing that I worry about when I saw this was that they didn’t know was taking what, exactly.

    Sure,  you could be giving the fridge to a family of five~six that usually have the choice of food or bills, but you could also be giving that fridge to a serial bachelor who lives with his mom and plans to use it to store his beard.

    Wouldn’t it have been better to see the members of the community who actually needed those items and the hold a lottery or something for each item? While doing that, you could also hold a barbeque and get a community get together.

  • Neeroc

    I too was going to mention freecycle. Up here at least twice a summer they have ‘the really, really free garage sale’ held at various community locations on a rotating basis. So it’s not only members of the FC group that can pick up the freebies, but anyone who needs. 

  • ortcutt

    Craigslist Free Pages.  Every city has one.  There’s no reason for people to need to wait for a group to organize giving away stuff.  I don’t understand why some atheists feel the need to copy churches when they make things harder than they need to be.

  • Nicole Introvert

    There is also something called Really Really Free Market in some cities where once a month people meet (here in Richmond it was/is in a park) and give away their stuff… or trade. This isn’t a new idea.

  • A3Kr0n

     It doesn’t matter where the fridge goes. The donor doesn’t have to pay the recycling fee, and the bachelor will have a cold beard.

  • A3Kr0n

     Shoot, that happens ever week where I live. We call the people that come by “pickers”

  • Mel G

    As someone who has been homeless, very poor and lacking transportation, I’d like to add that not all people have access the the internet or a cell phone. yes even in 2012, there are people who live in areas with no public libraries or public transportation. Whether we want to think it or not, at times the local church is the only place you can get to or your neighbors will help you connect to. I use FC, craigslist and the like. heck, I just sold my motorcycle on CL because my daughter’s final year tuition was short. Not everyone knows about FC either. I stumbled on it one day truing to figure out what to do with a dresser that I couldn’t keep when we downsized apartments. I wanted to donate it, but couldn’t transport it. FC, listed, picked up, done. At any rate, good for this church for trying something different. I agree that a lot of people took to take, but maybe somebody really will get some use out of it. I think humanity, as a whole, needs to copy this idea. I agree with Guest1. We could all learn to take better care of each other. Just my opinion, as someone who has used free services of a church before (food banks, clothes etc) and given them nothing in return.

  • A3Kr0n

    I volunteer my time and money to the community. I don’t go around advertizing that I’m doing it because I’m an atheist. That’s totally not the point in my mind. I would like to see a secular food pantry in town though, but not associated with any group like A+, or Humanist. Just a food panty. Remember: We’re just non-stamp collectors!

  • Nicole Introvert

    Here is the Wiki to Really Really Free Market if folks are interested:

  • Good and Godless

    A church gets a bunch of free stuff and turns down a revenue source because they already leach enough off of the taxpayers and the extortion money they collect from parishioners and have the audacity to suggest Atheists emulate them?   Grotesque.

    That is like kicking a puppy across town and stopping before punting it off a bridge.

    Buying needed items and giving it away for free is “charity”.  Being a no-overhead middleman is just like a retailer selling a loss leader to gain more customers. It is not like “using craigslist” it is craigslist. 

  • visitor

    The little town of Corinth, VT has the Cookville Mall open Saturday mornings 9-12. Take what you want, bring in things you don’t want. It has been going for some years, a community endeavor, nor religious affiliation.

  • 3lemenope

    I really can’t get myself into a headspace where I can empathize with your reaction to this event. This church did a good thing, and it seems you can’t give them any credit for the good thing they did because you are very invested in them being bad for other reasons, such as that they are tax-exempt or that they collect donations from parishioners. And I get why a person might be cranky over the tax-exempt thing, but really? Collections from parishioners? Unless it’s an actual cult we’re talking about, those people are there of their own free will, and give because they choose to. That you personally disapprove of other people’s expenditures bears none at all on whether the expenditure actually has a relevant moral dimension; parishioners give money to their churches because they value their churches as communities and get something out of them, and that you or I might find spending money in such a place to be silly doesn’t really intersect with the matter of whether what this church did was a good thing and worth emulating.

    And they didn’t have the “audacity” to suggest anything to atheists. The suggestion, so far as I can tell, was Mr. Mehta’s. 

  • C Peterson

    An event like this is about community, not about churches or atheists. We do similar things in our little town. Here, we have no church, but the school is central to the community, and is typically the organizer for similar charity. If there were a church, it might be a good choice as an organizer, since this sort of event is right in line with the mission of a local church.

    But it has nothing at all to do with atheism (what does?) and the idea of an “atheist organization” (whatever that is) running something like this seems contrived, and IMO is harmful to atheists and the public perception of atheism. An organization needs to look at its mission, to look at its goals, and decide if community charity is consistent. For a humanist group? Very possibly. For a skeptics or freethought group? Doubtful. For a group of atheists who get together for mutual support in a Bible Belt hellhole? Probably not.

    Again, there is nothing atheists should be doing except living their lives. Their lack of belief carries no social responsibilities, and suggesting otherwise is not healthy.

    What we should be doing here is not asking atheists to emulate what this church is doing, but praising the church for practicing what it preaches… and asking why so many churches do not. Charity is their job… it is not ours.

  • Silver_fox-trot

     Well sorry for vaguely remembering when the american government handed out millions of dollars to mega companies for bail outs and the CEO whined that they should be allowed to get their multi-million dollar bonuses. You know, with the money that they were suppose to use to make jobs with?

    I say vaguely because I know for a fact that I slammed my head on my desk a few times at the sheer stupidity.

  • Jaimie

    It’s a good idea. I don’t want to sound like I’m over-generalizing but church people are really good at organizing stuff like this. Of course many secular people are too. As the atheist community adds more ex-christians, hopefully some may be willing to use their talents and experience to do good in the world. Lets face it, many people stayed in the church as long as they did in order to have opportunities to help others.

  • anon101

    But you see Hemant for
    atheists it is not easy to put such an even
    t together. First you need an anti-harassment policy. Then you have
    to check every item if it is in compliance with feminist theory
    meaning that it can’t further patriarchy and the oppression of women.
    The items also can’t be dangerous to children and have to be
    environmentally friendly.

    Then you have to make sure that the staff
    present at the event consist of 50 % women and that all minorities
    are sufficiently represented including gays, lesbians, and
    transsexuals. Lastly you have to monitor that old, white, straight,
    cis-gendered males don’t take more than their fair share of items. So
    you see for atheists there is a lot of bureaucracy involved that the
    church does not have to put up with.

  • Coyotenose

     I hear that stupidly repeating fallacies disposed of by logic and reality a year ago makes you cool and smart if you combine it with suckling Thunderfoot’s teat.

    Mmm, does that bloated man-teat’s worth of Lie Juice taste good? It’s hard to tell, because you keep coming back to him for more of it, but every time you slurp it down, you end up screaming louder.

  • Joe Montoto

    Call me when the Catholic Church starts giving away its trove of priceless artwork at the Vatican, the Pope’s golden thrones, valuable properties (can you imagine what the value of St. Pat’s in NYC must be???), and jewelry!  So much for the vows of poverty!

  • GloomCookie613

    Small church group == government
    Community members == CEOs

  • Good and Godless

    The church is a cult – so there it a problem.

    The parishioners are not giving of their own free will. They have been threatened with eternal damnation and promised an inconceivable eternal reward for their allegiance. 

    Much like the established Consumer Protection, Federal Racketeering laws  and the Food and Drug Administration people’s expenditures must be  protected from fraud as an effort of Social Responsibility.

    Follow the link – the audacity was suggested and then parroted by Mehta.

  • GloomCookie613

    The area I live in has no library or public transit to speak of. Without a car or job, you absolutely are correct that the church is usually the onle refuge for someone going through bad times.

  • Miko

    This is common in anarchist circles as well (where it’s known as a “really really free market” and is also proselytizing-free other than an implied anti-capitalist message).  Since almost all anarchists are also atheists, it follows that many atheists are already involved in events like that, although we don’t do it explicitly as atheists.

  • Aaron Scoggin

    Okay, but it’s not really a church event, but a community event. Many of the items came from community members and not necessarily church members, right? So the church was just the venue chosen to distribute these things.

  • 3lemenope

    You are watering down the word ‘cult’ to meaninglessness. Cults are typified by a social dynamic that freely uses coercion, financial control, and often physical force to prevent people from leaving. Religious people telling you you risk hell if you leave is not the same thing; it isn’t even in the same ballpark. You can literally just laugh and leave…I’m pretty sure I’m in a discussion board full of people who at one point or another have done just that. If you choose not to, or if you choose to believe that you will go to hell if you defy your church, those are also personal choices under your direct control. 

    Much like the established Consumer Protection, Federal Racketeering laws  and the Food and Drug Administration people’s expenditures must be  protected from fraud as an effort of Social Responsibility.

    They pay to maintain a community, and they get a community. They donate stuff to give away, and it is given away. Where’s the fraud?

    Follow the link – the audacity was suggested and then parroted by Mehta.

    In the article itself there is no mention whatsoever about atheists, atheism, or any suggestions–audacious or otherwise–for us. In the article’s comments, Kevin_Of_Bangor, who is an atheist and a regular commenter here made the suggestion, which Mr. Mehta picked up.

  • Earl G.

    It’s called Freecycle.  I mean, for those of us who aren’t into making big events out of everything.

  • Earl G.

    Fallacy of the excluded middle.  Classy.

  • Indorri

    While I agree with your overall response on the charity of this church, I do not think you are correct in placing the threat of hell outside the same ballpark as coercive techniques used by cults. Many means of coercion mark cults and I would rank the threat of damnation as above techniques such as abandonment / disownment.

    That being said, I haven’t seen this particular church preach as such.

  • 3lemenope

    I agree that sometimes it slips into a grey area, though I have a hard time placing an abstract threat like “you’ll go to hell when you die” as equivalent to (much less stronger than) concrete manipulators like ostracism and disownment.

    Not all emotional manipulation, I think, is abuse of the same ken as a cult preventing its members from leaving. It may not be pleasant to be told that you’re hellbound, but at a certain point (especially in a religiously pluralistic society with a heckuva religious economy of choice) it still comes down to a simple decision as to whether to stay at such a church or not; they aren’t physically restraining you or putting liens on your house or kidnapping your kids or doing anything that would actually restrain a person from making an unencumbered decision to stay or leave. The angst of hellfire can also be assuaged as it is rarely the case that a single church has a monopoly on Christianity in a given area. If the Presbyterians are being bastards to you and yours, you can always try the Methodists who will be more than happy to tell you you’re just as saved with them as with those damn dirty Presbyterians.

  • Maria

    I agree totally with what you’re saying, but I think what Hemant is getting at is that we should take steps to better our public image.  And yes, we’re not one monolithic force, but atheists are combating a contrived public perception of us.  And atheist organizations like American Atheists, Atheist Alliance International, etc.  could possibly do things like this, although I totally already hear someone saying something along the lines of “they’re just copying those extremely good christians to get some good PR!”

  • Guest

    One of the most unintentionally hilarious posts I’ve read in months.

  • Guest

    I’m actually eating all this up.  Mister Mehta looks at good that a church group is doing and says ‘that was nice, perhaps atheists could make their presence known in such a way.’  Well done Mr. Mehta.  But for the usual bigots, that’s not good enough.  Just as fruitless as it would be to approach a Nuremberg rally and insist there could be some good elements to the Jewish contribution to Western culture, these enlightened folks who hate all religion and everything to do with it with the white hot fury of a thousand suns, will admit to no good thing to do with religion.  Nothing.  That’s what bigotry is.  No, it’s not even that.  We all remember Juror #10 in Twelve Angry Men (played brilliantly by Ed Begley).  Bigot and racist that he was, he still felt the need to qualify his bigotry by saying ‘I’m not saying those people are all that way.’  For modern bigots in atheist garb, no good can be admitted to.  Ever.

  • C Peterson

    Yes, I think that might be the point. But I don’t think doing things like this help the public image of atheists. I think that atheists getting together to do anything is bad for atheists in general. I’d like to see American Atheists, AAI, and any other organization with “atheist” in its name go away… or change its name and focus.

  • JoFro

    Atheists have more important things to do right now – like launch a lawsuit against the 9/11 cross…

  • C Peterson

    That’s not an atheist issue. That’s a matter for secularists… many of whom are not atheists.

  • Len

    This is a great event. I live on an army base and garbage day is Monday. People put stuff on the curb early, the night before or sooner. My kids bikes, baby gates, a radio, computer monitor, set of shelves, fencing, gardening supplies, tools, a table, toys, kids clothing and a couch have all come from “Sunday night shopping”.

  • Drew M.

    The butthurt is strong with this one.

  • Drew M.

    Again with the same lame backdoor Godwin you’ve used before.

    You really are a simple-minded one trick pony, aren’t you?