Four years ago, Adrian Loo thought he’d participate in fund-raising for the Assisi Hospice by having his kids bake cookies with him and hawk the results with their cherubic faces.
The cookies did sell out but Adrian had also extended the call to his sister and biology kakis and we responded with alacrity. Thus began an annual operation to help raise funds.
Motivation to help the hospice is easy as “staff and volunteers of Assisi Hospice have been helping people in Singapore facing death to live life with dignity and to the fullest, for over 20 years” [see this link].
Our modus operandi is to collect and sell item donations from friends, having exhausted our personal haul in the first year and struggled with baked sales. This turns out to also be helpful to the donors as they de-clutter! Goods and clothing which are languishing unused and slowly degrading are recycled to new owners while still in decent condition (we don’t take junk). Donors usually reflect on the relatively new items they pull out of storage, and hopefully that encourages less impetuous purchasing in future!
The critical issue of storage of donated items is solved with the provision of Adrian’s study for the 1-2 months leading up to the event, during which it slowly fills with treasures.
We took a break of sorts this year since a few of us were struggling to cope with life during the critical periods od advertisement and recruitment. So I was quite pleased that we could still make a contribution and see off most items to new owners. We appeared to have less space than last year, so we simply went to the pavement across from us and set up shop there.
The 2011 pile
Our Pasar Malam extended across the road this year
The day is peppered with visitors who throng the fair not only for bargains but also to get henna paintings, buy fruit, plants and knick-knacks, play games etc. and savour the lots and lots of lovely food amidst a carnival atmosphere.
We stand for eight hours during the event but take a break or two to wander off, soak in the sights and grab some of the wonderful food. Inevitably we will bump into friends each year and amongst the many I met this year was university classmate Maureen Chan who was running a stall in the air-conditioned hall up the hill!
Two sorts of people come to the fair – charity-driven individuals and bargain hunters. The former are more likely to plonk down cash for food to support the effort by indulging in simple pleasures. They do engage in some retail therapy and bargain buys and tend to be relaxed about purchasing, as all their coupons go to a worthy cause. They enjoy the interaction with friendly strangers who could well be their friends if our paths had crossed elsewhere. That puts a smile on everyone faces.
Bargain hunters are a tougher crowd but represent a significant proportion of customers and they examine items the others miss. These buyers are hard negotiators and target rock-bottom bargains. And close examination of donated items will reveal mild flaws which they zoom in on. Thus we’ve often learnt to let items go for a fraction of their value. Experience has shown us if we hold out for that decent price, that never materialises and we’d be saddled with a lot of items at the close of sales. An unwanted item, regardless of its original value, is junk. There is a lesson in there about materialism!
So while we are trying to earn money for the Assisi Hospice, we are also interested in recycling. And we have learnt to deal with the heartbreaking prices. Yesterday, for example, the price of a woman’s winter jacket with just a few stains, had no takers. The price spiraled down to all of five dollars. I thought of my student on exchange in Montreal last semester who trudged into the snow for a field trip without a winter jacket and clutched my head! Eventually one of us felt the $5 tag was too low, and picked it up for $10.
Purchasing from your own store is tagged a sucker buy and is heralded with great amusement from the rest as we are all supposed to de-clutter. But some buys are too good to resist. Appreciative of the value and utility, we justify the purchases by offering a higher cost than the going rate.
Sales are surprisingly brisk with clothes and bags – our best buys might get us $10 for bags and $5 for clothes at start of sales. After a couple of hours, what we have left goes for a few dollars. Books and trinkets rake in $2 at their peak which tapers down eventually to a few cents.
A critical thing about sales is having someone engage the potential customer in the exploration. The interaction drive sales and it is critical to have manpower who attend to the various sections.
the Rambling Librarian manages the store!
Aunty-killer Kok Min Yee and his moustache,
hands down champion salesman
We used to plot about more effective ways in which we sell the merhandise but soon learnt to simply be thankful that we even found the time to recruit items, come together to plan and execute the operation. So we focus on enjoying the fellowship of the process.
The nuns whom Adrian took instruction from originally were not expecting us to solve the hospice’s financial needs, merely to make a contribution. And they were delighted by our process.
Persisting with a project annually instead a one-off wonder means greater efficiency so planning is kept down to a minimum. Adrian keeps an eye on the target and this being our fourth year, everyone knows what works and how to help effectively during delivery, packing and unloading. With many hands, this is manageable. And each year, some of us take more or less active roles depending on crises. At gatherings though, we just cook and eat!
On the way home after this year’s second gathering before the event, I was thinking it was great that we had taken time to meet without the need of a death to draw us together. All thanks to the nuns, staff and volunteers at the Assisi Hospice. And maybe next year we’ll finally take a group photo!
Adrian Loo & Kakis, Booth No. C13 – Adrian Loo, Natalie Loo, Jonathan Harold Hendricks, Kok Min Yee, Kok Oi Yee, Angeline Tay, Jennifer Kee, Adrian Lim, Amy Choong, Thomas O’Dell, Ivan Chew, Jessica Chak, Anand Sundarambalan, Lee Su Yin, Airani S & N. Sivasothi.
Year 1 – 2008
- “Assisi Hospice Charity Fun Day,” by N. Sivasothi. Otterman speaks, 18 May 2008. blog post
- “5 loaves and some cookies…bags and coffee,” by Adrian Loo. Lekowala, 19 May 2008. blog post
Year 2 – 2009
- “Charity Fun day meet-up,” by Adrian Loo. Lekowala, 13 Mar 2009 – blog post
- Photos by N. Sivasothi, Album 1 of 2 – Flickr photo album
- Photos by N. Sivasothi, Album 2 of 2 – Flickr photo album
- “The calm after a whirlwind of brisk business,” by N. Sivasothi – Flickr photo album
Year 3 – 2010
- “Preparatory meeting” photos by N. Sivasothi – link
- “More stuff this year at our stall for the Assisi Hospice Charity Fun Day,” by N. Sivasothi. Otterman speaks, 28 May 2010 – blog post
- “Assisi Charity Fun Day, Sat 29 May 2010: send me your high-grade clutter or help me sell!” by N. Sivasothi. Otterman speaks, 26 May 2010. – blog post
- Photos by Kenneth Pinto – Flickr photo album
- Photos by Walter Lim – Flickr photo album
Year 4 – 2011