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    Tuesday, March 05, 2024

    People find holiday treasures at Elephants-in-Winter sale

    Kathy McKeever, left, of Old Lyme, looks at a Santa decoration while volunteer Jane Piro, of Essex, arranges items on the table for sale Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023, during the Elephants-in-Winter sale at First Congregational Church in Old Lyme. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Lauren Ashe, left, of Old Saybrook, and her sister, Katherine Baez, of Waterford, show each other the Christmas items they have selected to purchase Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023, during the Elephants-in-Winter sale at First Congregational Church in Old Lyme. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    People shop for Christmas decorations Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023, during the Elephants-in-Winter sale at First Congregational Church in Old Lyme. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    From left, Chloe Lubell, her daughter, Io Konst-Lubell, 4, of Old Lyme and Linda Cerritelli, of Old Lyme, look at Christmas ornaments Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023, during the Elephants-in-Winter sale at First Congregational Church in Old Lyme. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    From left, Cathy Neborsky, and Susie Lesick, both of East Lyme, look at Christmas items Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023, during the Elephants-in-Winter sale at First Congregational Church in Old Lyme. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Old Lyme ― Sisters Lauren Ashe of Old Saybrook and Katherine Baez of Waterford were shopping at the Elephants-in-Winter sale at the First Congregational Church of Old Lyme on Saturday to look for holiday treasures and spend time with each other.

    “It’s nice. We need time just the two of us so it gets us in the spirit,” said Baez.

    Ashe found light-up Christmas trees and decorative berries, while Baez found a lantern with a rustic winter scene, ornaments to give to her son for his first apartment, and a tray the sisters plan to use when they make cookies, an annual holiday tradition.

    The sisters were among the shoppers packing the church’s auditorium and poring over tables and shelves of holiday decorations and items, including shiny reindeer, snowmen, nutcracker and Santa Claus figurines, wreaths, light-up houses, and festive tablecloths, pillows, ornaments and mugs.

    The annual winter sale benefits the Ladies’ Benevolent Society at the church, which gives money to organizations in southeastern Connecticut, including Safe Futures and the New London Homeless Hospitality Center, Inc.

    The Ladies’ Benevolent Society organizes every summer the White Elephant Sale, a big sale that has been held for more than 80 years, said Ladies’ Benevolent Society President Jane Marolda. When the group accepts donations for the summer sale over a six-day period, it sets aside any holiday donations and then stores about 80 to 100 totes of holiday items to be sold at the two-day Elephants-in-Winter sale.

    When the doors opened for the winter sale at 9 a.m., about 40 people were already waiting outside, she said.

    Niantic resident Gail Smith, who arrived about 20 minutes before 9 a.m., said she enjoyed finding old-fashioned and funny items that aren’t made anymore, such as an ornament of a lady holding a bunch of coffee cups and a holiday mouse figurine. She said many items were $1 or $2.

    “I love this,” Smith said. “To me, it’s part of Christmas: coming to see the treasures that somebody couldn’t use anymore and making all these people happy because the prices are ridiculously low.”

    Shoppers on Saturday morning lined up with bags and arms full of items they were purchasing, as Marianne Baez, treasurer for the Ladies’ Benevolent Society and Katherine Baez’s mother-in-law, worked as a cashier.

    “It’s hectic right now but everybody's in very good spirits,” said Marianne Baez.

    Sandy Long, first vice president with the Ladies’ Benevolent Society, said the people who donate are happy that their beautiful things that they cherished for so many years are being recycled and will be enjoyed by someone else. The volunteers are happy to work to put the sale together, and it raises money that then is donated to charities.

    Diane Claussen of Niantic, who is a member of the church and works at the White Elephant Sale, said the sale is a wonderful recycling venture, with a roomful of holiday treasurers. She was buying a bag of holiday lights for $4, along with ornaments.

    “It really adds to your Christmas spirit, I think, to come and see all these things that people for whatever reason have donated, and that’s what this is all about,” said Claussen, adding that the funds benefit the Ladies’ Benevolent Society.

    Items that remain after the sale will be donated to the New London Homeless Hospitality Center, to patrons of the food pantry at the church, and to seniors, said Marolda.

    Maryanne Mastrandrea, who was volunteering at the sale, and her husband, Richard Mastrandrea, who volunteers at the food pantry, plan to bring some of the items to seniors at the Mohican Apartment building in New London.

    Sueing Onken of Essex said she loves to see the old-fashioned Christmas decorations. Onken began decorating for Christmas before Thanksgiving and was picking up a few new decorations of a sleigh and snowmen to add.

    She said Christmas is so beautiful, as it’s dark outside and people are turning the lights on in their homes.

    “And it’s peaceful,” she added.

    Old Lyme neighbors Fred Verillo and Jan Briscoe were shopping for holiday items on Saturday.

    “It feels like family,” Briscoe said of being in the room full of holiday decorations. She said she felt like all her relatives, including her grandmother, aunts and uncles, and mother, were there.

    Verillo agreed that being around all the ornaments and decorations gives an “old-time, homey feeling.”

    Verillo said he normally would have waited for an item, such as an angel planter he was picking up, to go on sale, but he thought about how the money was going to a good cause so he can afford it.

    “It makes you realize how blessed we are to be here in this town and to be able to buy things like this,” he said.

    The Elephants-in-Winter sale will continue 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Sunday at the church at 2 Ferry Road.

    k.drelich@theday.com

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