SINCE LAST October, 61 volunteers to the Greater Baltimore Medical Center's auxiliary have unpacked, sorted, priced, tagged and put on display more than a quarter of a million donated items that will be sold at their spring Nearly New Thrift Sale, which opens Saturday (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) in the Farmhouse on the hospital grounds. It continues there through May 18.
Few thrift sales offer so much selection and so many bargains. The sales are held each May and October.
The first sale was held in 1967, one year after GBMC was built on the rolling hills at 6701 North Charles St. It was small and similar to the ones held in the old Woman's Hospital in the city before it became GBMC at the new location.
Word of mouth about the bargain sales brought a combination of large donations and shoppers who come for the day from all over the area. They buy, fill up their cars, then go back in to shop again.
As soon as one sale ends, work for the next one begins. Farmhouse chairwoman Marge Middelton says that since October, the volunteers have given ''12,490 and one-half hours getting ready for this sale.'' Middelton sums up the exact total of volunteer hours with pride.
Harriet Small, Joan Mitchell and Pert Mutscheller are chairwomen for this year's sale. Auxiliary president is Pat Dobry.
Sitting around the table in the kitchen of the Farmhouse last week, some of the volunteers were discussing the work, the rewards and the frustrations of putting it all together.
Three of them, Martha Willis, Emily Brown and Ann Cheek, have been volunteering to this sale since it began. Others present that day were Sibyl Millner, Sandy Gaines, Nancy Davenport, Delores Bolte, Anne English, Betty Eichner, Millie Sachse, Mary Pearce, Paula Belt, Nancy Volk, Dee Collinsworth, Gay Graham, Barbara Hall and Barbara Krabbe.
Many men volunteer, as do several couples. Arthur ''Hobi'' Holbrook is there almost every day. Others include Pete Chambers, Vince Criscillo, Ray Wall, Bob Bishop, Edward Stellmann, Adrian Rich and Leon Krebs. Couples include Chuck and Helen Valette, John and Martha Geyer and Bill and Mary Malashuk.
Wall was complaining about the group. ''They're like pack rats 'round here. They'll mark anything for sale,'' he said, grumbling about almost losing his cap and $75 golf shoes. ''I came in to volunteer after a golf game, and I put my shoes and cap down then couldn't find them. Sure enough, they were on the shelf marked to be sold. Imagine my golf shoes for $3,'' he moaned.
Donated items include furniture, clothes, pet supplies, household items, TVs, radios and photographic equipment. There are jewelry, records, books, china, crystal and antiques, hardware, linens, furs, notions and a boutique filled with unique buys. More items are put out every day except for the last three, which are half-price and bag days.
Hours will be different this year due to construction on the hospital grounds. The two Saturdays, May 11 and 18, will have day hours as usual. However, on weekdays the sale will be from 4 to 9 p.m. except for May 12 and 15 when it is closed.
Half-price days are May 16 and 17. Saturday, May 18, hours are 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. That is bag day, when everything you can put in one brown paper bag costs $2.
Even though the volunteers price the items far below their value, the auxiliary has been able to present GBMC with millions of dollars in proceeds over the years. This year the Center for Women's Health will benefit.
Those who would like to volunteer to GBMC and its auxiliary should call Barbara Sterner, 828-2050.
The Farmhouse number for sale information is 828-9467.