A community can create extraordinary things when they come together

On April 5th, the Help a Quad Out Project held its first ever yard sale. It was a  HUGE event, much bigger than Tan and I had even imagined it could be!

The project began with a collection of our own personal clutter that we decided to part with and a realization that we needed to get more stuff if this yard sale thing was going to become a reality. So I posted a status update to my Facebook asking friends if anyone would consider donating their clutter to an hQo project yard sale and that all proceeds would go to the project. The answer I got back almost immediately was a resounding yes!  In fact, some of our friends were ready to donate right then and there and we hadn’t even figured out a place to hold it yet! We promptly got to work, getting permission from Tan’s parents to hold the yard sale at their house and setting a date for exactly one month later deciding that would be enough time for us to collect item donations from friends and get this shindig organized.

Family and friends donated, they collected donations on our behalf from others, we even had family and friends who donated their own yard sale’s worth of stuff. In the end, we had more stuff than we could possibly put out in just one yard sale!

Despite weather forecasts for severe and torrential thunderstorms for Saturday, the sun shone bright all day. We made a whopping $900  at the yard sale! What was quite surprising is that we had several people who came to the yard sale just to make a donation, having seen one of our posts on the many yard sale group pages and ads on Craigslist that we had posted about the project and the yard sale.

The yard sale was a great opportunity for us to meet people from our community. Several asked about the project and it gave us the opportunity to not only explain our need but also the needs of so many like us. Perhaps what was most touching was meeting the elderly woman who currently cares for her niece whom has Muscular Sclerosis, and every day performs manual transfers to get her niece in and out of her car. For those who don’t know what a manual transfer is, it’s when an aid physically lifts and slides the person from their wheelchair into another seat, and vice versa. Tan and I spent years doing this and it’s physically taxing on both parties. Years of transfers have damaged my own body, leaving me with chronic back pain, and can easily harm the person being transferred when the aid performing the manual transfer isn’t in top physical condition. Like us, this woman and her niece would greatly benefit from having a wheelchair accessible van, but the cost of purchasing one is financially prohibitive for them. It was heartbreaking seeing her niece sitting in the car waiting for her aunt while she perused the yard sale, unable to leave the car. With a wheelchair accessible van she could have remained in her wheelchair during transport, she wouldn’t need the assistance of her aunt to transfer her in and out of the vehicle. With a single push of a button she could have opened the van’s side door, lowered the ramp, and wheeled herself out of the car. She could have been independent.

Another elderly woman who came to the garage sale stopped to ask me about the project and wanted to know why were fundraising for a car. She understood why Tan needed a wheelchair van, but didn’t understand why we needed a fundraiser to get one, why we needed to create an “organization.” I began explaining just a few of the financial restrictions placed on persons who receive any form of government supplemental income and she looked away from me, no longer making eye contact. In my mind I thought, she’s going to be one of those people who simply sees how young we are and doesn’t understand why Tan receives any form of government support (a prevalent statement we get more often then not, especially because of how active Tan is). Then she looked back at me and says, “I understand exactly what you’re going through. I’m going through it now.” She didn’t look away from me in judgement, she was building up the courage to share her own plight with me. She wasn’t disabled, nor was her husband, but they both had worked all their adult lives, paid their taxes, lived within their means, and did all the things we commonly associate with being what we’re “supposed to do” to live a comfortable life in our retirement years on the pension that we pay for with our taxes. What she got was a monthly government check too small to pay their bills, an insurance plan rejected by more doctors than accepted, and income restrictions that threaten to take away their meager benefits but are necessary just to survive the cost of living.

And then there was the husband and wife team whose hearts were as big as their personalities. The Mrs., a massage therapist, regularly works with people enduring through physical illnesses and injuries, but what most amazed me was her business practices. Rather than having set prices, she often works with her clients to determine a price at which they can afford given their finances and in many cases barters with them, benefiting from the clients skills, talents, or hobbies rather than monetary payments. The Mr., a member of the American Legion, planned fundraising events for the organization and continues to care for members of his community by giving his jack-of-all-trades services for the low, low price of what those he’s helping can offer him–a true believer in the bartering system of old.

All in all the yard sale was a success one many levels. We received more donations than we ever thought we would just to put this thing together. So many people helped us get this thing together, and at the end of the post Tan and I would like to take a moment to recognize those people. We met many members of the community and found out just how close our neighborhood ties us to one another as many shared with us their stories of growing up just around the corner, raising their families just down the street, or have been looking at properties a few streets over to start their young family. It’s everything we wanted the Help a Quad Out Project to be. HQO isn’t a grassroots project just because we’re small, because it’s just the two of us, me and Tan. HQO is grassroots because we believe more strongly than anything in the power of community, in our responsibility to one another to care for, help, and share with one another. A community is just one big extended family, brought together by our shared circumstances, our shared culture, and hopes and values that we want our children to know. A community can create extraordinary things when they come together.

So here’s a BIG thanks to all those that came out to the yard sale and an even BIGGER Thank you to all the people that made it possible:

Dung and Lan Nguyen
Craig Williams
Brian Williams
Morgan Williams
Lewis and Joan Miley
Paul and Jenny Evans
Tammy Marinuzzi
Shelia Walker
Josh Hughes
Bobby and Kelly Creamer
Marckenson and LaToya Innocent
Destiny Yuhas
Nancy Shuford
Hung and Sanh Nguyen
Tuan and Mau Nguyen
Jocelyn Riedl
Gulf Glo Banners & Signs
Marty Hughes

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