Humanist Group Uses Yard Sales to Support Students

Members of Central Colorado Humanists participate in a community service project.

Over the Labor Day weekend, the Central Colorado Humanists (CCH)—the Salida, Colorado, chapter of the American Humanist Association—transformed their unwanted stuff into academic opportunity by hosting a yard sale to support the group’s scholarship program. This was their fourth annual—and so far most successful—yard sale fundraiser. Sales for the first two days brought in around $6,500, and there are still some items being sold on eBay.

The CCH Scholarship Fund was emptied in May when a total of $9,000 in scholarships was awarded to local students. Six high school seniors and two college freshman received $1,000 each and an additional $1,000 was awarded to one recipient for whom the cost of college was particularly burdensome. The scholarship program was established to honor and support exceptionally qualified young people who are planning to continue their education at an accredited two- or four-year college or university. Scholarship candidates must submit a personal narrative, a 500-750 word essay, proof of participation in community service, and a record of a 3.0 GPA or higher in order to be considered.

The yard sale was truly a community effort. Two members of the Central Colorado Humanists offered up their front yard and hosted volunteers, while others collected items all year to sell, managed transactions, and helped customers load their new treasures into their cars. Community events like this save unwanted possessions from being added to landfills by sending them to new homes where they’re utilized. Along with the usual yard sale finds—clothes, furniture, toys, and jewelry—the event included unique items like an inflatable canoe and an antique sewing machine. Customers came back each day to explore what new options had been recently put on display. “I personally have many people in my neighborhood who save things for the sale who aren’t even members of CCH,” said Mary Beth France, an organizer for the group. “People are really into recycling, reusing, and buying used items these days.”

France explained that one reason the yard sales have been so successful is because they challenge people to donate to the scholarship fund in addition to buying items at the sale by offering a match of all donations up to $500. The Labor Day sale is the group’s main fundraiser, but they also grow the Scholarship Fund throughout the year by having a dedicated scholarship jar at their monthly Sunday Science talks. CCH also partners with local businesses—like Salida Walking Tours and Soulcraft Brewing—to donate all or a percentage of proceeds from CCH-sponsored events. In addition to fundraising, CCH manages year-round community service projects, runs discussion events, and connects with local businesses and other organizations to develop fun and educational community events.

“We have grown from about twenty members in 2012 to 186 members today!” says France, noting that their email list of paid members and others interested in the group is now at 508 people. “This is exciting because Salida is a town of 5,500 and Buena Vista, where I live, is only 2,500. Pretty awesome humanist participation for two small mountain towns which have traditionally been fairly conservative.”

Congratulations to the Central Colorado Humanists for continuing this awesome and inspiring fundraiser. And best wishes to the scholarship recipients. To find or start a group of people near you doing “good without a god,” visit