Missouri town's garage sale benefits Haitian orphanage

BY ROBERT COHEN, St. Louis Post-Dispatch Published: June 7, 2011
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WEBSTER GROVES, Mo. -- A hastily planned trip to Haiti almost 30 years ago has led a Shrewsbury woman to encourage her church friends and neighbors to clean out their closets annually for a big garage sale to benefit a Haitian orphanage.

"It's God's sale," says Jane Corbett, 76, who is in her 29th year of holding the event. She moved it to Nerinx Hall high school in Webster Groves after the sale grew too large for her front yard. The three-day sale ended at noon June 4.

"Since I was little, I wanted to be a missionary," said Corbett, who first went to Haiti in 1982 at the invitation of a priest.

She stayed a month, without a working knowledge of the language or a place to stay. Her husband took care of their seven children.

Subsequent trips included her family members, who worked in hospitals, orphanages or wherever they were needed. In recent years, the work has led to two unexpected grandchildren. Daughters Colleen Hanlen of Shrewsbury and Janie Livingston of Michigan adopted Haitian infants, both with hydrocephalus -- a swelling of the brain.

"You can't take your eyes off of her," Corbett said of Hanlen's daughter Lulu, now 4, playing nearby while garage-sale shoppers filled their arms with clothing, electronics and furniture. Proceeds from the sale go to "Melissa's Hope," an unfunded Haitian orphanage on the rural outskirts of Port-au-Prince.