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Seniors Turn Discards Into Dollars

The knick-knacks and gewgaws come from Floral Park, Stewart Manor, Bellerose Village, and New Hyde Park. They come from Suffolk County and Manhattan. And a band of web-savvy seniors use eBay to turn them into money that supports their recreation center. It all began when retired executive Leonard Bloom first taught his “How To Sell On eBay” class for The Great Neck Senior Center and the enthusiasm of the participants inspired him.

“The center always needs money—they feed 100 people a day,” Bloom says. “I got this idea about selling merchandise and giving the proceeds to the center.” It would give the seniors from the class a practical exercise of their newly acquired skills, and help support the center’s activities. The students in the group enthusiastically accepted Lenny’s challenge, and Director Ann Tarcher gave the go-ahead.

That was four years ago, and since then the group has turned an array of unwanted items from donors into thousands of dollars.

The first windfall donation was an attic full of Lionel Trains still in their original boxes, and many gifts since have likewise been true collectibles. Last year two donors, one from Manhasset, the other from Port Washington, gave a collection of 16mm films—Charlie Chaplin, Laurel & Hardy, the D-Day invasion—and a third gave a working 16mm projector. The Chaplin was shipped to Spain. The projector, which sold for just $49, cost some $300 to ship to its buyer in Shanghai. The group has sent mink coats to Russia and Poland. The range of items is impressive: they recently sold an antique metal sextant, and also a Betty Boop doll. They’ve even found buyers for partially used bottles of perfume.

The hardest part, according to Bloom, is getting the stuff to sell. “All of the merchandise is donated by friends or participants at the center, members of the board, golf buddies,” says Bloom. To sweeten the pot, the group will give donors cash for 50 percent of profits from the sale of their item, plus a tax deduction for donating the remaining half to the Social Center. They’ll take donated item from anywhere, and have sold treasures that came from all over Long Island, Manhattan and beyond. “Our best target is people who are moving, who want to clear out their houses,” Bloom notes.  

In fact, on a recent Tuesday morning, he was waiting for a school bus to help carry off the possessions that one Lake Success family moving to Albuquerque did not want to take with them. That haul includes an unwrapped complete 64-volume set of “Great Books of the Western World,” which Bloom says will be a tremendous bargain for the buyer because “books don’t sell all that well.” That donation also includes a painting by an artist whose works are selling for $2,500 in galleries.

As charities go, this one is particularly frugal, with everything but the fees to eBay and Paypal donated. “Everything except expenses goes to the senior center,” says Bloom.

“No volunteer has ever taken a penny.”   

Those volunteers, mostly retired, mostly women, are a hardy core of Bloom’s course graduates. Bloom first learned about computers while serving in the Army during the Korean War, in which they were used to break codes. “It opened my eyes to the potential and it’s been a hobby ever since,” he says. Now, more than a few computer generations later, he’s passing along the skills for the center’s seniors to leverage technology for their own benefit. And, of course, the benefit of all who use the Great Neck Senior Center.

To make a merchandise donation or inquire about eBay classes, please contact Lenny Bloom at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or 516-902-4042.

News

Maybe not a scene from the rap song video, Thrift Shop, but the popular spot in Floral Park to score some of the best deals on lightly used goods and clothing, the United Methodist Church’s Thrift Shop, was just as exciting to watch when it re-opened to customers for the season. The thrift shop re-opened on Wednesday, Sept. 3 after being closed for the summer for restocking, cleaning and organizing the shelves and racks.

Thrift Shop Manager Dolores Rossi said more than nine volunteers helped throughout the summer to get the shop back into top shape for its re-opening, including her 17-year-old grandsons, Andrew Rossi of Floral Park and Jake Kennedy of New Hyde Park.

In 1963, Sewanhaka High School alumni and Floral Park resident, Adele Werthmuller pulled out her yearbook. She was on a mission and began paging through the pictures and names of her beloved classmates. She decided to look through the phone book for familiar names. She said, “I kept in contact with many of my girlfriends so I started looking for the men first.”


Calendar

Floral Park Memorial High School Class of 1964

Friday, September 12

Bellerose Village Day

Saturday, September 13

34th Annual Antique Motorcycle Show

Sunday, September 14



Columns

1959: The Year The Music Stopped Playing
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com

The Eccentric Heiress Of ‘Empty Mansions’
Written by Mike Barry, MFBarry@optonline.net

Yellow Margarine And A Pitch For The Ages
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com