For bargain hunters and collectors, the annual Inova Hospital Ladies Board Rummage sale is a can’t-miss event. And for the 500 or so volunteers who make the event happen every year, it’s a homecoming of sorts, a chance to catch up with friends and have a blast while working for a great cause.
This year, the board honored three women who have each volunteered for 50 or more years. These longtime volunteers earned the inaugural Golden Apron awards, a nod to the familiar blue aprons that all volunteers wear for the sale and for the weeklong sale prep that started Monday.
“I love the people that I work with, and this is the only week of the year that see some of them. I go for the friendship, the camaraderie and for the hospital. … We’re all there for the good of the hospital,” said Rachel Roberts, one of the golden volunteers recognized this week.
Roberts was recognized Monday as set up for the sale began at the Morven Park Equestrian Center, along with fellow veteran volunteers Joyce Bengtson—who for the past 14 years has returned from Arizona to help with the sale—and Mary Owen Chatfield Taylor, a 99-year-old Lincoln resident who has volunteered at the sale for 65 years.
Roberts is only 63 but has a five-decade volunteer history thanks to her own mother, the late Lucille Muse, who was a Ladies Board volunteer and brought her own children along to help.
“It was just a week of our life, even the children,” Roberts said.
A Leesburg native, Roberts took over for her mother at the Ladies Board’s permanent Twice is Nice thrift shop in Leesburg and continued volunteering for the sale as an adult, helping in various departments before finding her happy place in the barn dedicated to holiday décor—full of everything from Halloween costumes to loads of Christmas items.
Roberts, who’s also well known for the gorgeous flower arrangements displayed outside of her home on Edwards Ferry Road in Leesburg to benefit Loudoun Hunger Relief, is tasked with decorating the department’s numerous themed Christmas trees every year. Roberts’ sister Joy Griffith is another longtime volunteer who helps run the very popular book barn at the sale.
This year’s Golden Apron awards are the brainchild of another Leesburg native, local photographer and Ladies Board member Joylyn Hannahs. Hannahs is part of a wave of Gen-X volunteers, joining long-timers to bring the rummage sale into the 21st century. These fashion-minded 40-somethings are helping update the feel of the sale while honoring the enormous contributions of senior volunteers. Last year, Hannahs introduced special ribbons noting years of service attached to the obligatory nametags all volunteers wear throughout prep week and during the sale.
“They were great conversation starters,” said Hannahs, who decided this year was the right time to honor a few volunteers who have gone above and beyond. For Hannahs, giving an award to Roberts is especially meaningful. Hannahs babysat for Roberts’ children in the ’80s and the two women have remained friends over the decades. Roberts brought her on board as a volunteer a few years ago to help in the holiday barn, and Hannahs was soon all in as a hospital volunteer: she was nominated to join the Ladies Board three years ago, and for the past two years, Hannahs has run the sale’s ladieswear department with her longtime friend and fellow board member Annie Hewatt.
For volunteers, prep week is an intense but fun few days, full of hard work and lots of laughs. Preparations for the sprawling two-day sale start the Monday before the event as trucks roll in with loads items for dozens of departments from housewares to children’s clothing to upscale fashions and antiques.
“It’s amazing what can get done in one week, from nothing being on the tables to those tables being completely filled and ready to go,” Roberts said.
For the dozens of ladieswear volunteers, this means unpacking, sorting and hanging truckloads of coats, dresses and over five full days. The excitement culminates in the opening announcement at 8 a.m. sharp on Saturday, with dozens of early bird shoppers already lined up and waiting to come in.
“It’s a rush when they open those doors,” Hewatt said. “We’re all so excited, and [shoppers] are excited too.”
Hannahs and Hewatt have assembled an ace team of younger volunteers for their department. But Hannahs is inspired by the energy and commitment of the older generation.
“I’m amazed at the energy these ladies have, and the sale gives them energy. They’re like Energizer Bunnies,” Hannahs said. “It’s inspiring—I like to think I’ll be doing this when I’m in my 70s and 80s, too.”
The 80th annual Ladies Board Rummage Sale takes place Saturday, Oct. 20 and Sunday, Oct. 21 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Morven Park International Equestrian Center, 41793 Tutt Lane, Leesburg. Early bird tickets for entry at 8 a.m. Saturday are $12 in advance and $15 day of sale. For more information and early bird tickets, go to ladiesboard.org