Living

Wilton Lions Club plans annual penny sale Oct. 27

Thursday, October 18, 2012

By JESSIE SALISBURY

Correspondent

WILTON – Sixty years ago, Lions Club member Bob Stanton suggested that the club hold a penny sale as a fundraiser.

“He said it was popular at the Catholic Church,” said club member Dick Putnam.

And they have held one every year since.

Originally held where the Town Hall Theatre now is, the event has moved to the Florence Rideout School gym, where the 60th version will be held Saturday, Oct. 27. Doors open at 5 p.m., and drawings begin at 7 p.m.

“The format really hasn’t changed very much, except in the beginning, a member would take a gift and walk through the audience, and people put in their tickets. Sometime in the ’80s, we changed to the present style,” Putnam said.

Now, gifts are arranged on tables around the gym and tickets are put into plastic buckets.

“A member would walk around a minimum of 20-30 times,” Putnam said.

It is much easier with the newer format, since the event has grown almost every year. Several years ago, the club began selling rolls of tickets in advance to make it easier.

While setting up last year’s sale, organizer Pam Bealo said it had become an almost year-round effort. Active soliciting from area merchants begins around Sept. 1.

“The sale has always been donations from around the area,” Putnam said. “Some merchants have been donating almost as long as we’ve had the sale.”

The sale usually brings in about $5,000, but last year, they set a record of almost $9,000.

“We’re hoping to do that again,” Putnam said.

Bill Condra, a member of Lions since 1993, served as master of ceremonies for several years and this year will share with the honors with Kermit Williams, a candidate for the state Legislature. Condra and his wife, Sharon, donate a bicycle for a special raffle, as well as various other items that he did not name, saving them for a surprise.

“I really like the penny sale,” Condra said. “It’s a neat event, tables and tables full of merchandise with the whole town walking around putting tickets in the buckets. The kids’ booth always goes first.”

Bealo has been involved for a number of years, collecting items, setting up, doing what is needed.

“We have some specials this year, including a basket of items from Main Street Merchants,” she said. “I’ve been collecting tickets to destinations, like the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., the Squam Lakes Science Center, the McAuliffe Planetarium.”

Also new this year, since the Lions have taken over sponsorship of the Open Cupboard Food Pantry, canned goods can be exchanged for tickets. Those details are still being worked out.

“Doors open at five,” she said. “Come early and have a bowl of soup or a hot dog.”

Money raised is used for a variety of Lions’ Club projects, which include an annual high school scholarship, support of the Wilton Youth Center and the town library, the Main Street Association and special community needs. The group aids with sight conservation (glasses and exams) and hearing conservation, as well as maintains the community bulletin boards on Route 101 and the recycling center.

“We no longer have a committee and chairman for the penny sale,” Putnam said. “We know what has to be done and just do it. It is one of the most enjoyable events to work on – everyone has such a good time at the sale.”

Putnam has been a club member since 1977 and has worked on many of them.

Jessie Salisbury can be reached at jessies@tellink.net.

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