By Don Bolding

Killeen Daily Herald

HARKER HEIGHTS – Jean Shine and her Shine Team Realtors call it a communitywide garage sale, held on the front and side parking lot of the Extraco Bank Building that houses their offices in Harker Heights, but it looked more like a carnival midway without the roar of engines and snap-bang-pop of games.

The event has taken place for five or six springtime Saturdays annually and erratically for several years before that, Shine said, with proceeds going to the American Cancer Society.

"It's been a swarm," said Cyd West of First Community Mortgage, holding down the cashier's table at about 10:30 a.m. "We don't have a count, but I'll bet there have been 2,000 people here already."

The clear, crisp weather, with only a bit of a sharp wind, was perfect for the event, which started at 7:30 a.m. and ended at 2 p.m.

"We had people lining up at 6:30," said Shine, who estimated the event raised nearly $8,000. "We started setting up at 4:30 a.m., and some people stayed here all night, because stuff was already out."

These included members of the Young Life Christian Outreach Program at one end of the parking lot and Shine's next-door neighbors, retired Col. Carl Gehring and his wife, Darlene, who stayed in a motor home. They were joined before dawn by several family members including their son, Eric, soon to depart for a second tour in Iraq, and his wife, Christine.

Darlene has had several family members die of cancer. "You're just proud to participate in something like this," she said. "If we just keep trying to help, maybe they'll find a cure soon."

Cancer survivors wore purple T-shirts.

Cindy DeLuna of Killeen said Saturday would have been her parents' wedding anniversary, but cancer took both of them.

"My dad died very young, from leukemia caused by Agent Orange in Vietnam," she said. "My mom died in 2004. I brought her here from Hawaii to be with me, and she said right before she died that she saw my father at the foot of her bed. We honored her wishes and returned her to be buried at Punchbowl National Cemetery in Hawaii.

"I hope they can find a cure soon."

"I hope they can find a cure" was the refrain from every person touched by the disease, even those who had survived through chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. Also surprisingly common was the comment, "I just heard of this event a couple of days ago."

Janet Taylor of Killeen, a three-year breast cancer survivor, made both statements along with, "I'm so glad there's something like this here. We need more people trying."

Philip Ossowski, 45, of Harker Heights, and others had a booth selling home accents. Participants could pay flat fees for booths and keep the proceeds of their sales.

"I was diagnosed three years ago and went through surgery and other treatments, and I've been free of it since last year," he said. "A diagnosis of cancer is something nobody wants to hear, but it's the best thing in the world to get it detected early and jump right into treatment. This sale is the greatest. It's great to know all the money goes straight to the cancer society."

People's conversations about their own or loved ones' cancer were necessarily somber, but a party atmosphere otherwise made the air crackle. Jean Shine, herself a five-time cancer survivor, buzzed about like a schoolgirl, although she got only three hours sleep the night before. Consistently a top winner in national sales contests, she always maintains that community service is an integral part of her team's work, and she was into it full tilt.

Patriot Furniture donated quite a bit of new furniture for sale, and Charlotte's of Salado and Smart Spenders Variety Store donated new merchandise. The new Starbucks across the street donated several urns of coffee for the workers.

"We've had people come through almost crying, saying they were in situations where they absolutely had to furnish homes or apartments and didn't know how they could," West said. "The bargains here solved their problems."

Grace Awakening Church sold an upright piano and had several ceiling fans, among other items. "Our pastor just heard about it yesterday," a member said.

Trucks had been collecting donations of all sorts of typical garage-sale merchandise for weeks and putting them in storage. The team focused promotional efforts especially on schools, churches and other nonprofits to donate items. They provided receipts for tax purposes.

"The turnout has been just marvelous," Shine said. "Things couldn't have been better, and we want to thank the whole community. It took all of us to make this happen, and we're this much closer to finding a cure."

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