If you're in the market for a wedding gown, you could do worse than the Greater Baltimore Medical Center's Nearly New Sale, from April 25-May 2.
A brand-new strapless gown with floral embroidery on the bodice, donated by Gamberdella, the bridal shop in Towson, is priced at $100. A worn-once long-sleeve number with embroidered cut-lace top and long satin train is $16. Two of the gowns come with pearl-studded headdresses with attached veils.
For reasons no one can figure out, the GBMC Volunteer Auxiliary that runs the popular twice-annual sale on the grounds of the Towson hospital, had seven of them donated for the sale.
"We never know what will turn up," said Mary Kay LaPage, of Towson, one of a group of 60 volunteers who work on the Nearly New Sale, a function of the GBMC Volunteer Auxiliary.
The auxiliary volunteers organize the spring and fall Nearly New sales. On the actual sale days, where more than 1,000 customers a day are not uncommon, GBMC staff is recruited to help.
The sale is held in the Farmhouse Hill Building on the GBMC campus. More than a week prior to the sale, the 11,000-square foot space was stuffed floor to ceiling with clothes, both vintage and modern, home goods, sports equipment, toys, books, small appliances and electronics.
GBMC's Nearly New Sale, now celebrating its 60th year, predates GBMC itself.
The sale began in 1955 with doctors' wives from the Hospital for the Women of Maryland in Batlimore City donating their own apparel.
GBMC, a not-for-profit community hospital at 6701 N. Charles St., opened its doors in 1965, the result of a merger of the Hospital for Women of Maryland in Baltimore City and Presbyterian Eye, Ear and Throat Charity Hospital, based in East Baltimore.
From a small-scale rummage sale, the event has become one of GBMC's major fundraisers. Last year, the sales raised $250,000, representing half of the $500,000 GBMC Volunteer Auxiliary raises annually from all its activities. The GBMC Volunteer Auxiliary's board decides how the money is spent.
Recent pledges include $1 million to found the new Neurology Center, $200,000 to help establish Gilchrest Hospice for children, $500,000 to assist clinical trials within the hospital and $50,000 to refurbish the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
Most of the pledges are paid over a period of time, the Neurology Center pledge from 2013 to 2016, for example.
Carmen C. Baeza, GBMC director of volunteer services, said, "We are very proud of our volunteers at Nearly New and so grateful for their service. It takes roughly 13,000 man hours to prepare for each Nearly New Sale.
"That's an amazing gift of time. As a result of their efforts, the Volunteer Auxiliary has been able to provide substantial financial support to benefit patients at GBMC."
This year, the big push is to increase awareness of the Nearly New Sale beyond the usual flyers, gigantic display sign at the entrance to GBMC and traditional media outlets. Thanks to GBMC's marketing department, information is available via the hospital's website, Facebook and Twitter.
"We've computerized. We have a database," said LaPage about the group's transition to modern business methods that began five years ago.
"But we're not giving up the sign," said LaPage.
LaPage retired in 2002 as grants manager for Baltimore County Public Library and now works part-time as an information specialist in the library system.
She said she began volunteering with the Nearly New Sale a decade ago and currently serves as its communications person.
"I was looking to give back to the community," LaPage said.
'A small department store'
"We're like a small department store," said LaPage, who led a tour of the Farmhouse Hill Building where the sale is being held along narrow aisles that allow passage from one section to another.
While the items in the Nearly New Sale are priced to sell, LaPage said a few designer pieces invariably turn up. This year, the "wow" winner is a size 4 Rose Taft strapless ballgown of gray chiffon embroidered with dainty flowers, selling for $1,000 versus the original $6,500 price tag.
Other designer items range from a pair of size 6 Jimmy Choo beige lizard heels, $50, to a Hermes tote-handbag, $275. Brooks Brothers sports jackets are to be found in the men's clothing section.
Amazingly enough, as filled to the rafters as the building is pre-sale, by the end of the sale it will be empty, LaPage said. The Nearly New volunteers will have a month's breather before beginning the process all over again — accepting and sorting donations from 700 to 800 donors, including local merchants, entering everything in the database, pricing the items and restocking the racks and shelves.
Debbie Cox has been donating clothes and household items for the past eight years. The Parkville resident, who also volunteers at the Nearly New Sale, asks family and friends to give her whatever they are getting rid of for the sale. The amount varies. This spring, for instance, a friend was clearing out her mother's house.
"I brought over 20 boxes of clothing, small appliances and kitchen things" from that alone, said Cox, who calls the Nearly New Sale "a great cause" that benefits the hospital.
Becky Baummer is chairperson of the Nearly New Sale, a role that gives her a seat on the GBMC Volunteer Auxiliary board. The Towson resident is currently in the first year of her second two-year term. She began volunteering for the Nearly New sale after retiring as an office manager five years ago.
"My children were born here [at GBMC]. We've been to the ER. My father-in-law was [hospitalized] here. I saw how caring the staff was," said Baummer.
"Our contribution goes to patient care," said Baummer. "All of our effort goes to helping the youngest and the most vulnerable populations."
GBMC's Spring Nearly New Sale, 6701 N. Charles St., runs from public opening day on Saturday April 25, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., to closing bargain bag day on Saturday May 2, 9 a.m. to noon. For details, call 410-828-9467 or visit website http://www.gbmc.org/nearlynewsale.