Wilton Penny Sale turns 59

Thursday, October 27, 2011

WILTON – For the past 58 years, members of the Lions Club have been holding a giant penny sale, one of their two biggest fundraisers of the year. This year, for the sale held Oct. 22, the donations filled tables the length of the Florence Rideout School gym.

At a penny sale, people purchase tickets that they place in containers, and a winner is drawn for each item.

For organizers, it is almost a year-round effort.

Almost as soon as she has recovered from the stress of this sale, Pam Bealo said she will begin salting away things whenever she sees them.

“I have a spare room,” she said.

Active soliciting begins around Sept. 1.

She collected more than 50 items for this year, bargains from the Internet and local sales.

Bill Condra has been a part of it since 1993 and has served as the master of ceremonies for several years.

“This is New Hampshire History Week,” he said about the event newly proclaimed by the Legislature. “We’re glad to be a part of the very first one.”

A special basket of made-in-New Hampshire items was offered in recognition. The basket included maple syrup, some books about the state and a baseball cap, all packed in a basket from Peterborough.

“We thought, with this economy, we wouldn’t get as many donations (from businesses) as usual,” Condra said. “So we were surprised. It’s amazing, the people who donate things. People just step in and help.”

Donations were received from almost all the businesses in town and along Route 101, Condra said.

In addition, there were several large items offered in a separate raffle, including a plasma television and donations from Brennan & McKay Appliances in Milford.

The committee uses runners – sixth-graders who bring the tubs full of tickets to the master of ceremonies and then take the gift to the winner.

Several high-school students use the event to earn community service hours.

As tables are cleared, they are folded and put away, so the cleanup takes little time.

Tom Presjnar, who has been involved since 1977, said the event usually brings in about $5,000.

Bealo was busy Saturday afternoon arranging the tables of items, looking for items to add color to the effects.

Setting up in the gym for the sale takes several hours, she said.

“We do the kids’ stuff first so they don’t have to wait around,” she said. The sale typically takes about two hours.

Her husband, John Giso, is this year’s club president, and he was busy bringing items in from trucks outside.

“He’s been stressing for a week,” Bealo said. “We do as much ahead of time as possible” to cut down on the setup time. “We spent three nights putting labels on the tubs, about 250 of them this year.

The sale has grown so popular, she said, they began preselling tickets several years ago after they ran out at a sale and had to turn people away.

“We had about $2,000 in presale,” Giso said.

They spoke of a regular visitor from the Washington, D.C., area, a cousin of a resident, who has been coming every year for some years.

“She always brings some donations for us,” Giso said.

Proceeds from the event benefit various Lions Club activities.

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