Minks to Sinks raises more than $100,000 for charity

Anyone who thinks there isn’t money to be made from a tag sale should think again.

Minks to Sinks, the Wilton organization that recruits a volunteer army twice a year to put on a tag sale extravaganza, recently presented a check for $100,000 to Robert F. Cashel, president and chief executive officer of Family & Children’s Agency in Norwalk. Minks members made the presentation at the organization’s annual kickoff meeting Jan. 29 at Trackside. Last year Minks to Sinks made two additional donations of $10,000 each, bringing the 2013 total to $120,000.

“They are an incredible group of volunteers in the Wilton community,” Mr. Cashel told The Bulletin last week when asked about the donation. “Our connection has a very long history. The support has always been at a very high level.”

Last year, Minks to Sinks gave FCA a check for $80,000 from its 2012 tag sales, which take place each May and October.

FCA is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organization that serves the needs of more than 10,000 individuals, including children and families, youth, adults, and seniors. It serves six area towns: Wilton, Norwalk, Westport, Darien, Weston, and New Canaan. It also has an adoption service that works nationally and internationally.

According to FCA, 89 cents of every dollar donated goes to support the agency’s clients. Although the money received from Minks to Sinks will go into FCA’s general fund, Mr. Cashel said the kind of work this donation will support is the agency’s work with at-risk youth, children and families.

“We provide an after-school program for middle school children in Norwalk at Norwalk Community College, and also as part of that program we have a mentoring service that mentors at-risk children,” he said. “This will help to support that whole part of the agency that is referred to as youth development.”

The after-school program serves 50 middle school children five days a week.

“We have an alumni component that works with kids who have been in the program and are now in high school,” Mr. Cashel said. “We have about 35 to 40 kids involved there. It is fairly new.”

The children are all considered at risk, many coming from single-parent or impoverished families.

“Without a program like this, there is the potential for kids getting into some real self-destructive behavior,” Mr. Cashel said. The program stresses academics and character development.

Having it at the community college, he said, “is a wonderful aspect. It gives the kids a chance to experience what it’s like at a college campus and experience a whole array of possibilities.”

The mentoring program has historically been known as Project Friendship, and the emphasis is on building a mentoring relationship with youngsters in the after-school program.

“The biggest piece of the program is older teenagers who are mentoring the younger kids in middle school,” he said. “Mentors come from Wilton, Darien, New Canaan, and Westport. Historically, the Wilton community has been especially supportive of that service. It’s a wonderful tie-in with Minks to Sinks.”

Although its name was not coined until 1952, Minks to Sinks has conducted its sales since 1931. It is the Wilton auxiliary of Family & Children’s Agency. The sales have been held in various locations throughout the decades, but since 1971 the signature tents have gone up each spring and fall at the tennis courts just north of the intersection of Route 7 and School Road.

There, over the course of three days, shoppers can find just about anything, or as one volunteer famously said, everything “from minks to sinks.”

Katy Williams, who is co-chair of this year’s sales with Andress Pettibone, said she could not put a finger on what propelled the group’s fund raising over the $100,000 mark.

“We had two great sales last year,” she said. “The weather was good for both sales and we always get good consignments.”

When asked about the organization’s continued support of FCA, she said, “They support families in need in our community and that’s what we’re all about. … We just appreciate them and want to support them.

Trish Weber, 2013 Minks to Sinks chair, said much of the group’s success “is thanks to the community who brings us their donations and allows us to sell their stuff.” She said the group is also very conscientious about keeping down their expenses.

“The sale definitely grows every year,” she said. “Saturday morning the line is wrapped around back to the tennis courts.

“The beauty of it is you never know what you’re going to get. You never know what king of treasure might be in there.”

Since 1973, Minks to Sinks has given more than $2.5 million to FCA.

“We treasure our relationship with Minks to Sinks,” Mr. Cashel said. “They are an unbelievably generous group of volunteers who donate their time. Their level of commitment is unbelievable.”

The 2014 spring sale will take place May 3-5. Anyone interested in volunteering may call Yolanda Bonomo at 203-762-9603.

Information: minkstosinks.info.