When you are handed lemons, you make lemonade. And this “lemonade stand” has been more fruitful than ever imagined.
In this case, the lemon was the pandemic. But Boothbay Harbor Rotary Club did not let COVID-19 sour the club’s enthusiasm or hard work after the 63rd annual August Auction in 2020 was canceled, as were a number of other main events in the region.
“The pandemic forced us to think and act differently, create new goals for socializing while social distancing and wearing masks, and most importantly create an even better sense of community amongst many we know and many more whom we had never met. The goal continued to include raising funds to help mostly people in our community and to a lesser extent those in great need beyond our peninsula and worldwide,” wrote longtime Rotarian Chip Griffin in early 2021.
With many Rotarian minds at work, outside their clubhouse window sat a barn filled with donated auction and flea market items and an idea was born – turning the “Big Gray Barn” into a once-a-week shopping stop.
“Our Rotary Barn was transformed … into a resounding community center throbbing with life and laughter on Saturday mornings,” wrote Griffin.
For the past two springs, summers and falls, the Saturday morning gatherings have brought in thousands of dollars which the Rotary gives back to the community through its charitable contributions. The Barn is at 66 Montgomery Road in Boothbay Harbor. Doors open at 8:30 a.m. Saturday and close promptly at 11 a.m. Sales are held April through December.
In September 2021, the Boothbay Register reported the Barn “created an even more successful alternative (to the Auction),” bringing in “more than $100,000 as of June, most going to local nonprofits.”
“July sales were more than $30,000,” said Rotarian Debbie Graves in the September 2021 article. Graves and fellow Rotarian Laurie Zimmerli chair the Barn operation. “On Saturday (Sept. 4) we sold over $5,000 worth of items in two and a half hours.”
Because the sales were so popular in 2021 and parking was hard to come by on the narrow road, the club expanded its parking area in 2022.
What’s for sale at the Barn? Lots! You never know what community members may have donated to the weekly sale but, for the most part, you will find used furniture, tools, housewares, kitchen supplies, sporting equipment, boats, American antiques from the early 19th century through the mid-20th century, pottery and ceramics, paintings, sculpture and textiles made by Maine artists, high quality glass, dishes, silver and pewter, upscale boutique items and some indefinable treasures. The barn does not accept beds, electronics, or large appliances.
Purchases help to support local and international programs and projects of the club, which include: donations to the Boothbay Region Student Aid Fund scholarships, Boothbay Region YMCA camp scholarships, Partners for World Health, Boothbay Region Food Pantry, Teacher Appreciation Days, Boothbay V.E.T.S., The Community Center, Boothbay Region Health Center, Rotary Interact Club at Boothbay Region High School, a local workers bicycle program, Hometown Heroes, Boothbay Region Community Resource Council, Rebuilding Together-Lincoln County, the Veterans Appreciation Dinner, and much more.
Boothbay resident Dorothy Ferrell said, “Rotary is the best thing we have in this town. Your service through the barn sale is amazing; my Hitchcock chairs brightened my week, and it gave me something to think about besides coronavirus. Thank you!”
According to Register files, Boothbay Harbor Rotary Club began meeting in a converted home located between Oak Street and Townsend Avenue in 1949. After the club sold the home in 2013, the club’s meetings were held in the Scout Hall the club built on Montgomery Road and then expanded it in 2014. Construction of the Barn began in 2015.