When Pat Rogers first asked Tom Andersen if he could build new clothing racks for this year's Memorial Community Hospital Auxiliary's Rummage Sale, he turned her down because he was too busy.
But, Rogers didn't take no for an answer and asked Andersen if he'd visit the auxiliary's storage area at the Washington County Fairgrounds to view the aftermath of historic flooding that left much of the equipment the auxiliary board had gathered over the years in shambles.
From tables, hangers, shelving and commercial-type clothing racks, the board was left with very little to salvage for the year's sale. But, among the damaged items were clothing racks made out of pipes that, with some power washing, withstood the floodwaters and Rogers and other volunteers had hoped to get more of them built
As he looked at those racks, Andersen realized there was history behind them.
“Jens Jensen, the original owner of Jensen Well Company, made them for the hospital auxiliary when they first started,” Andersen recalled.
Andersen, who now owns Tom's Well Service, worked for Jensen and had helped make some of the clothing racks.
“I think he made 10,” Andersen said.
The late Frank Reyzlik, a longtime Blair businessman, also helped build some of the original racks, Rogers said.
Knowing the importance of the annual rummage sale and the work that went into making the original racks, Andersen agreed to help the volunteers, donating his time and labor. His suppliers even pitched in and offered the materials at a discount.
At first, he agreed to make 10, but with a little urging, he cut 52 full-length pieces of steel pipe into 460 pieces, threaded them and used 200 elbow pieces, 200 T-shaped pieces and 200 caps to make 50 new racks for clothes to hang on during this year's sale, which kicked off Thursday and continues through Sunday.
The building process began slowly, with Andersen starting off the month of August working a few hours a few days of week. As the date of the sale drew closer, he ramped up his efforts, working all day about four days a week.
His friendship with Rogers and Jensen's involved with the original construction are two of the reasons Andersen dedicated time to the project. He also wanted to give back to a county that has supported him.
“The fact that Washington County has been fantastic to us and our business, I just thought I should do it,” he said.
Rogers said it's a true example of paying it forward and his contribution was a blessing.
“It means that we can continue to have our sale, we can continue to hang our product,” she said.
It may not seem like a big deal to have items on hangers and clothing racks at a rummage sale, but for Rogers and other volunteers, the extra step makes shoppers feel like they are in a store.
“If you walk into a store and there's just a tote full of shirts, do you want to look at them?” she said. “If they are hung up neatly, you want to look at them,”
The goal, she said, was to get as many items out of the boxes they came in as they can.
“The more we can hang, the more we can sell,” she said,
While there will be a lot of bargain hunters at this year's sale, Rogers said there will also be a lot of people who need to outfit their family at a reasonable cost, so she wants their experience to be the same as it would be at a store.
“If you come to the sale, I don't want you to feel like you have to crawl around on the floor and dig in a box to find something for your family,” Rogers said.
“It's just like you are going to Kohl's,” Andersen added.
While the volunteer effort to make the sale happen each year is vital, this year's effort took on a new urgency after the March flooding.
There was extra work to purchase new tables, a donation drive for hangers and days of clean up.
“The first day I went over there for the fair clean up, someone from the board told me 'don't even go look at your stuff,'” Rogers said.
But, she did, and after getting home later that day, she sent an email to her fellow auxiliary board members letting them know how much work they had to do.
However, she was confident it could be done.
“It's an unbelievable group of hard working women who had one thing in mind and that was to get back on our feet and to have a sale and to continue to raise the money,” she said.
Rogers said there was never a question that the sale would go on and that's a testament to both the auxiliary board and the Washington County Fair Board members, whom she said provided valuable support and motivation.
“There wasn't one person who said 'Maybe we should table this sale this year' and a lot of that came from the fair board saying to us, 'We are having a fair, so you are having a sale, this is going to happen,'”
Rogers said the flood has changed a lot of people's lives and this effort is just one example of how hard working people in the community are and how willing they are to donate and volunteer.
“That's where Tom stepped in,” Rogers said