Clothes for a cause Charity sales a chance to bag a bargain


AS THE LEAVES begin to turn, smart Baltimore women know it's time to take on new colors themselves by shopping the charity sales. This week, the Hopkins Hospital Women's Board, the League for the Handicapped and the Greater Baltimore Medical Center Volunteer Auxiliary all are selling gently worn clothing to benefit their causes. The 27-year-old Hopkins sale is noted for suits and ballgowns; the 13-year-old League for the Handicapped event, its fur coats and accessories; and the 24-year-old GBMC benefit, every kind of fashion and furnishing under the sun.

Years ago, most charity sales were called "rummage" or "jumble" sales, emphasising the grab-bag quality of the clothes. But Baltimore's top benefits, organized by tireless volunteers who solicit donations, organize the clothes and staff the sale, present quality clothing that is cleaned, pressed and on hangers in a pleasant environment. Dressing rooms are communal and quite cheerful as total strangers give each other candid judgments of the attire.

It is entirely respectable to be seen shopping at these sales, and indeed, shoppers have queued as early as 6 a.m. for a 10 a.m. opening at GBMC. The League for the Handicapped expects people to come by for tickets to the 5 p.m. show as early as 8 a.m., and the Hopkins sale committee has reported early birds lined up the Evergreen Carriage House drive at 8 a.m. for an 11 a.m. sale.

While all these volunteer groups hold other fund-raisers throughout the year to bring their contributions to a higher amount, in 1989 the Hopkins sale alone raised over $70,000 for patient care; GBMC, which has both a fall and spring sale, raised over $225,000 for patient comfort; and the League for the Handicapped's Fur Elephant Sale raised over $23,000 for Camp Greentop, a residential summer camp for the handicapped.

The Nearly New Sale began as a rummage sale to benefit The Hospital for the Women of Maryland many years ago, says Martha Willis, chairman for publicity. When the Women's Hospital merged with Presbyterian Eye, Ear and Nose Charity Hospital in 1965, GBMC was born. A year later, the Nearly New Sale was reborn bigger and better than ever, with everything from antique furniture to coats and dresses.

The Volunteer Auxiliary of GBMC, a group of over 600 active and sustaining members, gather donations and hold the sale every fall and spring to offer seasonal merchandise. People spend "from five cents to over $100," says Willis. Thousands of people show up for the sale, as many as 2,000 on the first day, lining up at 6 a.m. for a 10 a.m. opening at sale headquarters in the GBMC Farmhouse.

Proceeds have always gone to "patient comfort," which Willis describes as "things that are not in the budget of the hospital but that are needed." This year the Center for Women's Health will benefit. Hours for the sale are 10 a.m to 5 p.m. Oct. 13 and 16, and 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Oct. 15. Half-price days are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 18 and 19, and bag day is 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 20.

The Board opens the doors of the Evergreen Carriage House tomorrow for a sale of donated designer clothing for women, men and children. Some vintage furs and other old-fashioned styles will also be available.

This year, an early peek through the racks showed a bonanza of long and short evening dresses. In the men's department, there are 20 fine wool business suits in size 42 regular donated by the estate of a judge. The children's department turned up a fancy party dress by Florence Eiseman and practical down coats. Prominent designers in women's suits and sportswear include Adolfo, Castleberry, Bill Blass, Diane Freis and Escada, with prices generally between $50 and $80.

The sale runs 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. tomorrow and Fri., and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at Evergreen Carriage House, 4545 N. Charles Street, just north of Loyola College. Admission and parking is free, and refreshments are available for purchase. There will be surprise sale specials Fri. and Sat. and a half-price sale on everything Sat. (435-9790).

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