Artists find treasures in ‘junk’ at MCPS yard sale
BLACKSBURG — It’s often been said one man’s junk is another man’s treasure.
For Ellett Valley residents Dave Angle and his wife, Diane Relf, Montgomery County Public Schools’ final surplus yard sale at the former Blacksburg High School site was a gold mine Friday.
Both Angle and Relf are artists who specialize in the unique.
Relf has been turned onto “rusty” pieces of art for years and said her husband saw something Friday that might have him turning rust into art from now on.
It was a mangled piece of fence, about 10-feet-long and coiled. Most shoppers walked by the hunk of metal, but Angle stopped and saw potential. For $5, Angle had his next project.
Angle said the rusty fence looked like a cocoon, and it began to turn those imaginative gears in his head.
He said he plans to burn the fence more to bring out the rust and then paint it. Once it’s painted, he plans to hang it from a tree for the community to enjoy.
Although Angle found fuel for his next art project, Relf found some things that would benefit the community in another way.
“I was looking for cabinets because the people at the Meadowbrook Center in Shawsville are building a room for all the volunteer groups,” Relf said. “We all need storage in there, and I found it here.”
In addition to the cabinets, Relf purchased bottles for the librarian at the Meadowbrook Center who organizes projects for children using sand to paint.
She also found old maps which she will give to the local museum.
Angle said he and Relf attended a previous MCPS yard sale and benefitted from it as well. That’s why he said he came back with his truck and trailer Friday.
“It’s the whole thing about recycle and reuse instead of buying new if you possibly can,” Angle said.
“Why spend the money to buy new when old can get the job done for us?”
That’s a question many in the community have been asking MCPS throughout these BHS surplus sales.
Montgomery County Public School Supervisor of Purchasing Angela Bland said she understands the concerns of parents and taxpayers but that items in the sale cannot be used in Blacksburg’s new high school.
Bland said items at the surplus yard sales have been through rigorous evaluation to determine whether or not the items still have an “educational value.”
“There are certain items that are no longer deemed as a usable item for the schoolbecause they violate state codes and regulations,” Bland said.
Bland said certain cabinets are good examples of items that are sold in the surplus yard sale because they don’t meet standards, citing that some are too tall and won’t allow fire sprinkler systems to adequately spray in the event of a fire.
The school system must follow surplus procedures given to them by the commonwealth of Virginia, Bland said.
In addition to the yard sales, Bland said, items are often sold through a surplus auction website.
The school system also looks at local agencies that may benefit from such items, Bland added.
Bland said the school system earns an average of $1,500 to $2,000 from each yard sale but expected Friday’s yard sale to surpass that average because of special items in the sale, including kitchen equipment.
Several stoves, deep fryers, pots, pans, and utensils were among other items, such as desks, cabinets, chairs and athletic equipment for sale. More than 130 people had attended the yard sale before 12:30 p.m. and Bland expected between 160 and 200 people to attend by the end of the day.
Although Relf said she found a good deal with her $20 cabinets, she believes the school system would fare better with new items rather than investing in the old ones.
“One part of it is that this stuff is pretty rough to be going into the new building, but the other part is to get it into shape takes volunteer time,” Relf said.
“These cabinets are a good deal, but by the time I paint it and put in shelves … it’s just far more than should be invested to make it a usable item.”
Relf believes the yard sales not only benefit the school system but the community, too.
“This kind of sale benefits other organizations by moving stuff to them,” Relf said. “If they’re able to get a little bit of money out of it and recycle this stuff through the community, that’s fantastic.”
And for many community members, purchasing an item at the yard sale may make them feel like they have a piece of the old Blacksburg High building.
“There’s something here for everyone, and most people leave with at least one item,” Bland said.
“They feel like they’ve taken a part of the building, and most people can tell you stories about this place.”
By Mike Shaw