Clean Sweep 2014: ‘These swords are awesome!’

Jim Harwood, Lewiston, tests his purchase. (Alexander Hulse '15)

Jim Harwood, Lewiston, tests his purchase. (Alexander Hulse ’15)

In a display typically reserved for midnight premieres or Black Friday, a line began forming at daybreak.

Some savvy veterans of Clean Sweep even brought collapsible chairs with them, waiting out the line in relative comfort.

It would be hours before the Underhill Arena doors officially opened, but Bates’ 14th annual “garage sale” was certainly worth the wait. Hundreds of items donated by the Bates community in order to keep them out of the waste stream translated into great deals for the Lewiston-Auburn community, and some $22,000 for participating nonprofits.

The 7:30 a.m. line.

The 7:30 a.m. line. (Alexander Hulse ’15)

As customers in line discussed their hopes for the event, snippets of conversation concerning refrigerators, sound systems and Tupperware could be overheard. Gina Thompson of Sabattus was particularly looking forward to the “goodie bags,” $4 plastic bags filled with a variety of small items.

Amidst this background talk of what would be found at Clean Sweep, Mike Thibodeau of Lewiston pithily observed that “the first thing they have is a long line.”

Thibodeau had a point. By 7:30 a.m. the line stretched from Underhill to the landmark Bobcat statue near Leahey Field — then nearly doubled its length in the next half-hour.

When the doors finally opened, there were cheers as the crowd poured into Underhill. The selection of sale items was baffling at first, with areas dedicated to shoes, pillows, glassware, printers, a forest of lamps and enough books to outfit a library, among a menagerie of other pieces.

The gates open at 8 a.m., and Clean Sweep 2014 begins. (Alexander Hulse '15)

The gates open at 8 a.m., and Clean Sweep 2014 begins. (Alexander Hulse ’15)

The section was perhaps the most competitively priced — small couches and futons cost as little as $15, with larger items similarly affordable. These deals attracted plenty of attention, and many tired shoppers took a minute or two to test the comfort of a chair or futon.

Furniture requiring extra effort to move, Clean Sweep offered customers the opportunity to reserve pieces for up to an hour, allowing time to arrange for transportation.

After taking in this sight, many would look down and realize that the floor itself was on sale! The ground was lined with an eclectic variety of rugs, each with its own handwritten price tag.

Opinions about the event, produced by the college’s Office of Sustainability Initiatives, seemed overwhelmingly positive. Auburn resident Debbie Mansur observed that Clean Sweep is a “good opportunity to give back to community programs,” while Keagan Cody, Lewiston, said only, “These swords are awesome!” about his swashbuckling find of three foam cutlasses. Clean Sweep clearly has a wide appeal!

Deals by lamplight.

Deals by lamplight. (Alexander Hulse ’15)

This glowing response was reflected by the  folks staffing the event — volunteers from the local nonprofits that shared Clean Sweep proceeds. One of the many three-year Clean Sweep veterans, Nenman Estes of Sabattus, a volunteer from the Loaves and Fishes program of the Dominican Sisters, said, “It’s great helping local charities, food banks — there’s a lot of need for that right now.”

Between reducing waste, supporting these charitable endeavors and creating a positive relationship between Bates and local residents that lasts through the years, it’s not at all surprising that next year Clean Sweep will be celebrating its 15th anniversary.

Located in Lewiston except as indicated, the nonprofits that participated this year are:

  • Catholic Charities of Maine’s Seek Elderly Alone Renew Courage and Hope (SEARCH) Program
  • Community Partners, Inc.
  • The First Universalist Church, Auburn
  • The Justice, Ecology and Democracy Collective, Greene
  • The Life Center at John F. Murphy Homes, Auburn
  • The Loaves and Fishes program of the Dominican Sisters, Sabattus
  • Lots to Gardens
  • Lutheran Social Services, Auburn
  • The St. Martin De Porres Residence, a homeless shelter
  • The Share Center, Auburn
  • TriCounty Mental Health Services and its Social Learning Center
  • The Trinity Jubilee Center
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