The faith center at First United Methodist Church is wall-to-wall with merchandise for its annual Asbury House Garage Sale, which opens Friday at the Whaley Street entrance of the downtown church.

The event, which raises funds for the Asbury House Child Enrichment Center, has been growing for decades with the leadership and labor of devoted volunteers.

Rosalee Sprouse and her husband Robert have volunteered at the sale for about 20 years, she said. The couple handles books donated for the sale, dividing them up into categories and adding price tags.

“We volunteer because we love Asbury House,” Rosalee Sprouse said of the nonprofit preschool. “We think that it is the most worthwhile cause because it helps little children and it’s just fun and fellowship; it helps to keep us active.”

Besides the sale days, which are Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon, she and her husband spend about 20 hours volunteering to help with preparation.

“We so believe in Asbury House and the educational opportunities for the little children,” she said. “We’re both ex-teachers and that’s just dear to our hearts.”

Ellen Gordon, vice president of Asbury House, said the center is celebrating its 50th year and the garage sale is almost as old in its 47th year.

The sale is one of the original fundraisers for the organization, she said. In the past few years, it has raised from $35,000 to $40,000.

“We’ve filled the entire faith center, which is a huge gymnasium-type room, with tables — probably 70 tables of merchandise, at least,” Gordon said. “Every dime that is raised goes to support the Asbury House Child Enrichment Center.”

Monthslong project

The center starts collecting donations in May and three times a week it is moved to a storage facility until the sale.

Bonnie Edmund, a co-chair of the sale for 24 years, said it is important because it helps pay for what children at the center need.

The sale features a boutique with new and gently-used items donated from local businesses, she said.

“We have some really nice boutique items again,” Edmund said. “If people are really interested in buying gifts for Christmas or for weddings and things we have an inordinate supply of those types of items at a bargain price.”

Gordon said the center helps families with pre-school children. Typically, the families are single parent households who are trying to go back to school or work.

Childcare is expensive, Gordon said. The Asbury House helps families by offering a pay scale based on income.

“When families come to the Asbury House they find that their child is absolutely loved, cared for and nurtured with God’s love in an unconditional way,” she said. “There’s just a very special Asbury House quality that every parent and child perceives when they come in the door there.”