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The gross earnings of AKEN’s Giant Rummage & Bake Sale #26 exceed $17,500!

 First-time volunteers at Hiigelbasaar #26: in the middle, youngest volunteer Stephane Perron, on the right footwear department whiz-kid Kariina Järve and on the left rummage sale enthusiast and Girl Guide Sylvi Oja. First-time volunteers at Hiigelbasaar #26: in the middle, youngest volunteer Stephane Perron, on the right footwear department whiz-kid Kariina Järve and on the left rummage sale enthusiast and Girl Guide Sylvi Oja.AKEN's annual fundraising event known as the Giant Rummage Sale or "Hiigelbasaar" continues to amaze! Bringing such a stupendous event to its culmination requires the cooperation of literally hundreds of contributing participants, in one capacity or another, from within the local Estonian community.

The Estonian Canadian Women's Alumni Association known by it's Estonian acronym "AKEN" (Akadeemilised Kanada Eesti Naised), extends a sincere "pre-thanks" to every single solitary individual who contributed, in any way whatsoever, to the success of this giant venture. More extensive thanks to follow.....

On Saturday April 29th, hundreds of locals from the neighbourhood surrounding the Estonian House made their way to the giant sale at 958 Broadview Avenue. And most, if not all, departed happily as new owners of an unimaginable host of pre-owned treasures. In all, 720 eager bargain hunters crossed the threshold of Esto House, paid their loonies at the door and rushed back and forth between the sales areas in the Grand Hall, the foyer and the Crystal Hall.

In the spacious Grand Hall, a rummager's paradise greeted the shoppers. What they beheld was an unbelievable variety of merchandise, everything from beautiful fur coats and stoles in the clothing department to boring but useful nuts and bolts in the hardware department. Describing the scene in the "suur saal" does not do it justice, one has to experience it with one's own eyes and with one's own wallet.

Some shoppers waiting in line for the 8 a.m. opening, immediately made a beeline for the Cafe for their morning cup of coffee. What beheld them in the Crystal Hall was a gourmet's paradise! A savory table and a sweet table, both completely sold out before the end of the day. Organized by a group of volunteers known as the "Friends of Estonian House", the roomy Cafe was practically standing room only during the course of the seven-hour rummage-fest. The bright sunflowery aprons worn by the Cafe's volunteers matched their sunny, friendly, helpful dispositions.

The other half of the Crystal Hall was occupied by the Esto Boutique department, where the aisles were continuously crowded with shoppers with an appreciation for Estonian handicrafts and artifacts – Estonians and non-Estonians alike. Hot-ticket items such as Estonian folk costumes, amber and silver jewellery, paintings by well-known Estonian artists and a host of other handcrafted items literally flew off the sales tables and into shoppers' bags as soon as the doors to the sale opened.The Esto Boutique department accepts donations all year round which means, that it not only brings in a goodly sum on the day of the giant sale, but also earns money for AKEN's good causes all year round at various Estonian functions.

This year the organizing committee of the sale felt deeply the loss of one of its staunchest members, Tiia Remmelkoor, who passed away unexpectedly last year. As one of the founding members of the AKEN committee, Tiia coined the Estonian name for the sale - "Hiigelbasaar". She also designed the instantaneously recognizable AKEN window-shaped logo ("aken" means window in English) as well as the highly visible black and neon pink t-shirts, which the sales staff have worn for the past 25 sales.

For the first 20 Hiiigelbasaars, Tiia was head honcho of the footwear and handbag department after which, she switched hats completely (or shoes as the case may be) and for the following four years, took on the challenging task of organizing the Hiigelbasaar's Cafe and Bake Sale .

In memory of Tiia's long-standing contribution to AKEN and to the Hiigelbasaars, the AKEN committe decided to give the highly visible space in the foyer between the large and middle halls, to Tiia's favourite old department – the shoe department! And then, as if by some miracle, there appeared on the scene a first-time volunteer, who seems to be following in Tiia's footsteps.....

On the Friday morning before the basaar, seventeen-year-old Kariina Järve arrived at Esto House and asked how she could help. Someone pointed to a pile of bags and asked her to organize the footwear department, which also includes handbags, purses, baggage and accessories such as ties, scarves, belts, gloves etc. And set up the department she did and in an incredibly meticulously organized and customer friendly fashion. And on the day of the sale, Kariina put her sales skills to the test so successfully that by the end of the day her task of packing up the left-overs was made much easier.

When asked if Kariina was as orderly and organized with her belongings at home as she had shown herself to be in setting up the footwear department, her mother Eve responded: "Not so much anymore, but when she was two years old and we had visitors, who took off their shoes at the door (as is the Estonian custom) Kariina would line up the shoes neatly in a row". Looks like early practice makes perfect!

On Saturday, while standing in the midst of the hustle and bustle of Tiia's old department and, moving forward,
perhaps Kariina's new department, Tiia's smiling presence could be felt with every sale, with every loonie and toonie Kariina tucked into her money pouch.

Estonian House was a busy place during the week preceding AKEN's giant sale on Saturday, April 29th.
All three halls very occupied on the days designated for donors to drop off donations for the sale. On Tuesday evening the large hall hosted a special community meeting regarding the future of Estonian House and on Thursday evening the hall was rented to an outside community fund-raising group called Intergenerational Connections.

While waiting for the Thursday evening fund-raising event to end so that they could start setting up the hall for their Saturday sale, the AKEN fundraisers struck up an immediate rapport with the Intergenerational fundraisers, as groups with similar goals are wont to do. Did the Intergenrationla fund-raising group mind that the AKEN volunteers continued receiving, sorting and stacking "stuff" in the foyer while their event was going on in the main hall? Not at all! And the Estonian Men's Choir, the Ballroom Dancers and Estonia Choir happily sang and danced to piles of donations crammed behing baffles in the corners of the middle and small halls. Cooperation and tolerance was the name of the game. After all, after 26 years, everyone knows that whereever AKEN women appear, piles of stuff are sure to follow!

The general feel at AKEN's 26th supersale at the Estonian House was reminiscent of the atmosphere of the many "Hiigelbasaarid" held at St. Andrew's Church (Vana-Andrese kirik). Over a 25-year period, the AKEN rummage sales held at the Church evolved into highly anticipated, annual community gatherings which were beneficial not only to the organizers of the event but also became inherently beneficial to the community in which the Church was located. On April 29th, a sense of camaraderie dominated the atmosphere at Esto House as the volunteer sales staff and customers of every ilk, including many Estonians, conducted friendly sales transactions and chatted over a friendly cup of coffee while munching on Ülle's "pirukad".


On behalf of the AKEN committee............Ellen Leivat

 

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