DIANE MAKAR MURPHY Garage sale is their way to thank Easter Seals

The donations Pam and Jim Pierce and friends have collected fill 20,000 square feet of floor space. Today through Sunday, you can pick up a $400 dinette for $100; a $45 ladder for 25 bucks; an Ernie doll, a Teletubby, a cup and saucer, a purse, a Victrola, or just about anything else you can think of.
You see, in the last quarter century, Pam and Jim Pierce of Liberty Township have been three times blessed by Easter Seals. Now, Easter Seals is regularly blessed by them -- via the Easter Seals garage sales they organize.
Braces: The Pierce/Easter Seals connection began when the Pierces' daughter Tami, now 33, was 4 years old. Tami's doctor recommended her legs, which turned in awkwardly, be put into braces. Tami's corrective shoes -- shoes like her infant twin sisters also wore -- were no longer enough. The cost: $300.
"Where would we get $300?" Pam said. "I wasn't working. Jim was laid off from Republic Steel. It may as well have been $3,000."
A friend suggested Easter Seals, a nonprofit organization devoted to helping the disabled. Easter Seals paid for Tami's braces and the twin's special shoes to boot.
Rehabilitation: The second blessing came when Tami was a high school senior. Tami was riding home with a friend. Just seconds from her grandmother's house, her friend lost control of the car and struck a nearby house. The car was so mangled that the first officer on the scene thought the passenger was dead. But Tami survived. Rushed to a hospital, she was cared for, for 10 days, before doctors discovered she had a broken neck!
"They had moved her around and had even washed her hair," Pam recalled with a shudder. "The doctor said it was a miracle ... she lived!"
Tami had to learn to walk again, talk again, care for herself all over again. Easter Seals Head Trauma Program stepped in to help. "They helped her learn all the everyday things," Pam said. Today, Tami is the mother of "two beautiful healthy little boys," and, according to Pam and Jim, is beautiful and healthy herself.
Father's care: Easter Seals also came to the Pierces' aid when Jim's father, suffering from Alzheimer's disease, used Easter Seals adult day care. Jim and his sister Lilly Pierce appreciated the help in caring for their father.
"They helped us at all these different stages in life, and we finally felt we had to give back," Pam said. When they heard the Head Trauma Program that had helped Tami just a year earlier was ending for lack of funds, they decided to become fund-raisers.
They organized their first Easter Seals garage sale in 1987, holding it at their own home on Church Hill Road. With the help of Lilly and other volunteers, they raised just more than $700. As the years went by, the Pierces moved the sale from their garage to tents, finally chopping down two trees to make room for bigger tents. Last year, operating from retail space, their various garage sales grossed more than $70,000. "And every penny goes to help local people through Easter Seals," Pam said.
Categories: This week's sale items are organized into areas: antiques and collectibles, baby items, sporting goods, medical equipment, men's junk and tools, Christmas, furniture, clothing, books, and more. When the sale is over, everything left will be given to other charitable groups in the community. Then, the Pierces will begin again.
"It's very much a community thing," Pam said. "We've had schools send kids to volunteer. People donate items. Companies give us new things. Shoppers end up volunteering at a later garage sale. God love 'em."
"It's part of our life now," she said. "It's kind of like completing a circle. You have to give back."
The Easter Seals Garage Sale will run 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily through Sunday at the Ridgeview Plaza, at U.S. Route 422 and Ridge Road in Warren. For more information or to make a donation, call (330) 369-1324.

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