Spotlight on Rummage:
A Bold Environmental Act

Katie Nahrwold teaching young children about the environment

2017 Kenilworth Union Church Annual Rummage Sale to Support Charity

While you’re clearing out the clutter from your life and gathering things to donate to Rummage this month, you’re participating in a time-honored tradition at Kenilworth Union Church that raises funds for the Church’s many benevolences.

But you are also engaging in bold act of environmentalism that is in line with the latest teaching by experts.

Katie Nahrwold, an environmental educator and activist who is one of three Rummage Coordinators this year, notes that environmental advocates have in recent years reduced their emphasis on recycling and increased their emphasis on reducing what we buy and reusing what we can. They call it the Three Rs: reduce, reuse, recycle.

“The pendulum has shifted. It used to be all about recycling. But recycling costs money and recycling centers are overfilled. They’re having a difficult time finding places for all this recycled material. It’s gotten all of us thinking about not creating so much in the first place, about not going to the store all the time and, instead, reusing what we have—finding ways to repurpose instead of buying and buying and buying new,” she said.

“Rummage obviously fits so nicely into that. What we need, some of us already have. We can reduce and reuse right here in our own community,” she said.

“It’s kind of funny. Rummage sales, in general, have been around a long time. Our sale started 73 years ago. By comparison the environmental movement is newer. Little did we know all those years we were doing something that would seem so current today,” she said.

So what’s old truly is new again.

(Katie is one of the North Shore’s most active environmentalists. She teaches the environmental “Three Rs” to young children in area schools, for the Solid Waste Agency for Northern Cook County. She is founder of Go Green Kenilworth, co-founder of North Shore Green Women, and a leader in creating the Joseph Sears School’s Outdoor Classroom. She also led the effort to make the annual Kenilworth Scout Pancake Breakfast a zero-waste event.)


Kyra Miller with mittens, bags, and paddle mitts made from great Rummage finds

Kyra Miller with mittens, bags, and paddle mitts made from great Rummage finds

One of the Church’s most active and creative re-users of Rummage goods is Kyra Miller. Struck by lupus in her forties, she had to give up the hair salon she owned in Philadelphia and move home to cope with her chronic illness.

“I was really lost without my career. I had not done anything much for two years since I was diagnosed other than be sick and depressed. I wanted to try something new, anything,” she said.

Then, in a series of what she called “God moments,” she started felting wool and making mittens out of the felt. (Felting involves boiling wool, which shrinks it and makes it softer.) She and her mom, Bev Kirk, bought lots of wool sweaters at Rummage.

One night, members of the Church’s Adult Bell Choir were socializing at her mom’s house after practice. They saw the second pair of mittens Kyra made—and one of them liked the mittens so much she asked Kyra if she could buy four pairs, to give for Christmas presents.

“Then my craft really started to gain momentum,” said Kyra, who has since sold scores of her distinctive looking mittens to friends and family on the North Shore.


Goodoo Dolls

Goodoo Dolls

She has also started making other items from repurposed materials—paddle ball gloves made from felted wool; totebags made of old suits, cargo pants, ties, and old belts; Christmas ornaments made from scraps of her other projects, and cloth “goodoo dolls” for people who are ill (to bring “good” health to people instead of the evil spirits associated with voodoo dolls).

As much as she would love to, she can’t scale up the mitten-making to a large scale because she’s sick so often. But fortunately, it’s a hobby she enjoys, that makes her a little money and that fits with the up-and-down nature of her disease. She can work at her projects when she feels good and back off when the lupus flares. So she is grateful.

And in the meantime, she has reused lots of Rummage finds—wool sweaters people didn’t want because they were too scratchy, neckties and suits that weren’t selling because they had wacky patterns or funky colors, table cloths, shower curtains, upholstery cloth, raincoats, buttons, and suit lining.



See the Rummage Home Page for more information about Rummage. Donations will be accepted from July 9 through July 5 at the church manse. The Rummage Premium Presale (at a 50% markup) is July 14 and the regular Rummage Sale is July 16.



See Spotlight on Rummage. Next week, Spotlight will feature “Sharing Treasures at Rummage.” And later this summer, Spotlight will return to the environmental theme, highlighting the many creative ways Rummage has developed to find new homes for things that don’t sell at Rummage.