Judi Moore Interview:
This is file # 51, cycle 2. Today’s date is June 1, 2017. This is jean McMillen. I am interviewing Judi Moore. She is going to talk about Habitat for Humanity, both the tag sales, and the store and anything else she wants to add. But first we’ll start with the genealogical information.
JPM:What is your name?
JM:Do you want the whole thing? I was born Judith Ann Thormann . In 1982 I married Tom Moore so now I am Judith Ann Moore. I dropped my maiden name and picked up his last name.
JPM: Your birthdate?
JM:Brooklyn, New York, Prospect Heights Hospital. My parents were from Brooklyn. Even though they were living in Nutley, New Jersey and my mother’s doctor was still from Brooklyn.
JPM:Your parents’ names?
JM: My mother was Edna Kathrine Ruppel and she married my dad Henry Martin Edward Thormann on June 8, 1935. She too dropped her maiden name and picked up my dad’s last name.
JPM:Do you have siblings?
JM:nope, I am an only, a spoiled brat.
JPM:We are special.
JM:Yes we are.
JPM: How did you come to the area?
JM:My dad worked at chase Manhattan Bank in New York City for 40 years. In 1958 he and one of his co-workers were talking at lunch about what they were going to do on summer vacation. Before that my parents had rented cabins at Gilbert Lake in Oneonta, New York, and then up at Lowell Lake in southern Vermont. They really hadn’t decided yet, but Ken Rudolph, the friend of my dad’s, was saying,” Gee my in-laws have a place in Connecticut. They are talking about renting. It is in a place called Pine Grove and I think you would really like it. So why don’t you talk to Edna, my mother, and let me know.” They talked it over and decided that they would rent Ken’s in-laws’ place in Pine Grove. It was closer that either Vermont or Oneonta from Jersey where I grew up. They rented it for two weeks in July, 1958. We bought our cottage over there, Pine Grove being in Falls Village in October, 1958. We were summer people, the dreaded summer people, for 11 years. When I graduated from college, we moved here. I was hired as a Spanish teacher at Housatonic Valley Regional High School. (Dr. Stoddard was President of the Pine Grove Association when Judi moved there. Ed.)
JPM: You have been there for…2.
JM:I was there for 40 years; 18 as a Spanish teacher and 22 as a guidance counselor. I still sub. I retired 8 years ago. I still sub for Spanish teachers because when I was in the classroom there wasn’t anybody that could do it. It was just babysitting. That is why I do not sub for other things. I told the ladies as it is an all-female department that when I retired I would be happy to come in and sub for them because I could teach their lesson plans so they would not lose a day. They are not out a lot which is fine.
JPM:It is nice to be able to continue.
JM:I always check with them which is good. It keeps me in it. I enjoy doing it. In fact I am going back next Friday until the end of school to sub for the Spanish teacher who broke her leg the day before spring vacation. They did not realize that I was around. They thought I was on vacation so they hired another woman to do it. I had to go in 3 days for her because she had a commitment starting the 9th of June so I am going in to finish out the year. It will be review and exams.
JPM:It is also nice to get paid.
JM:The other thing is that I am still involved with the school with the musicals. I do props for the musicals. I am in and out of there all the time. More so from January to March when we are doing plays and stuff. So I still have a connection. It was my second home for a long time. It is a place I am very fond of and I am very fond of the people.
JPM:How did you get involved with Habitat for Humanity?
JM:Back 25 or 26 years ago Judy Gafney who lived in town and goes to St. Mary’s church had the idea to raise money for Habitat by having a tag sale. St. Mary’s had a tag sale in the basement of the church. Kathy Mera (See file 28, cycle 2 Kathy Mera) who was on the board (of Habitat Ed.)at the time knew I was a tag sale junkie. She approached me to see if I would help. I said < “Yes, sure that would be fun” I really had not done much in the way of running a tag sale, more shopping. I figured that would be great. I helped out with the tag sale that year. I was very impressed because we made $2,500 at that tag sale. I have never had a tag sale that made that much money. I thought that was pretty good. I think $500 of it was a matching grant to match our first $500 from an anonymous donor, but I have my suspicions about whom that was. The same thing happened the next year. Then Judy decided to spend more time with her daughters during the summer. She stepped back and the other person who was one of the main people was John Pogue (See file #29 John Pogue) who also attended St. Mary’s and Kathy was involved. It became John, his wife Barbara, (See file #23 Barbara Pogue) Kathy Mera and I who picked up and ran the tag sale. We were at St. Mary’s for 4 more years until they redid the sanctuary so we couldn’t be there.
Fortunately the Bitterman Center in Canaan which is the CCD building for St. Joseph’s church became available to us. We moved to Canaan and had our first of 6 tag sales there. This is wonderful as we had so much more space. We are inside. The one drawback to St. Mary’s was that all the furniture was
outside in the barn. I never saw it until the day of the tag sale. AS I am pulling things out, people are breathing down my neck. “How much is this?” How much is that?” “Give me a minute, I haven’t seen it yet. I need to think about this.” With the Bitterman Center the first year we had everything inside so we were able to take care of it. The weather was not an issue. We were very fortunate as I don’t think we ever had rain at St. Mary’s. We were at Bitterman’s for 6 years, but by the time we left there, we had all of the center plus 4 tents. It inevitably rained and things got ruined.
One of our volunteers was involved in private school and she said, “Did you ever think about using the Kent School hockey rink for the tag sale?” My immediate reaction was oh that is a great idea. But then it was so far away. Kent is not part of our affiliate. They belong to New Milford.
One of the women who worked with Barbara Pogue on the linen section, Barbara DelPrete, whose husband Rick was the athletic Director at Hotchkiss. So I thought Hum. I know they have hockey rinks. They are a whole lot closer. I mentioned it to Barbara DelPrete in August. I figured it was a dead issue, but the next thing I know in October John Pogue calls me up and says, “We’re going over to Hotchkiss to check out the skating rink for the tag sale.” Oh hey this is good! We went to check out the skating rink. The only thing that really scared me about it was how steep the stairs were. I worried about people falling going up and down them. Then right next to it was the rest of the athletic complex at the back which they now call the Forrest D. Mars Athletic Center. There side by side are three basketball courts. I said, “Oh.” They said, “If you would rather have this?” The door was right on the level, the parking was amazing. The only drawback was the kind of flooring that is in there. It is not wood, but something that has a rubberized backing to prevent shin splints for the kids because it is on concrete. The things we had to do which are not that big a deal is we use about 100 tables and we have to put little pieces of wood under the legs of the tables because even the plastic table empty will start to create an indentation. It will eventually pop out but once you start putting stuff on the tables it gets even worse. We had to do that and also with any furniture we had to put these squares of wood. You can’t drag anything either so not to tear the floor. We were there for 14 years.
This year unfortunately they are tearing up the parking lot and redoing the pool. We are not going to have access to it. We are very fortunate the Salisbury Boys School is taking us in for the year. We are going to have the tag sale this year in what they refer to as “The bubble” which is their indoor tennis courts. From the outside it looks like a triple geodesic dome next to the hockey rink. I have to get over there and reconfigure where things are going to be laid out. That is how I got involved with the tag sale. The first year we netted $2,500; last year we netted $37,000. That is kind of exciting for me to see the growth. It has been 26 years.
JPM:How many volunteers do you have?
JM:At the tag sale 70 to 80. Mostly there are women. It takes a good two weeks to set up. I am hoping since we are using the indoor tennis courts we may have a little more time to set up, but if we don’t , we don’t. I know we can do it in two weeks. The women come in at their leisure. I don’t hold them to a schedule. I will take whatever time they can give me. They come in and we unpack hundreds
and hundreds of boxes of donations. We collect all year from very gracious donors. We have stored on the side barn by the store, there is a long narrow area and the boxes reach from the floor up to the rafters in this area. We just keep stacking them. Last year Whalen Moving and Storage up in Norfolk very graciously gave us the use of two of their moving vans and some guys to help us pack and unpack. Mr. Whalen packed the 30 foot one. This was one of the moving vans where there is a section above the cab where you can also put stuff. I could not believe how many boxes he was able to get in that little area. I was blown away. He was the one who stuffed them in. We also had the use of an 18 foot van. Each one of those 2 moving vans made two trips over to Hotchkiss stuffed to the gills. They also had to bring over our ”props” our tables, shelving for display and stuff like that. It was the first time I can remember in 5 years that the area where we store stuff for the tag sale was totally vacated. Everything went. When I saw the stack of boxes, because when we get into Hotchkiss, their summer program kids are still there and they have the use of the gym, so we put the boxes along the perimeter of the gym and fill up. I was really scared when I saw how many boxes we had. I thought oh my God we are not going to be able to get all this stuff unpacked in 2 weeks. Those women finished with all that two days before the sale. I was amazed. I could not believe it.
JPM: Well they had done it before and did not waste time. They know what they are doing. They know about pricing so it makes it a lot easier.
JM:The first week we do all our unpacking and setting up. The second week we do not take any donations and we just do pricing. That is all we do. Some people are very comfortable with and some aren’t. The people who aren’t do the easy things like glass ware and stuff like that. I have women that take responsibility for certain areas. Barbara Pogue does linens. That is her thing. She has her own little group of volunteers that have worked with her for years. They come in and she does an amazing job. She measures everything; she labels if it is table cloth the size of it. If it is sheets, are they full, twin. That section looks absolutely amazing. I have2 girls and a mom (Diane Hansell, her sister and mother) who do our children’s section; the toys and things. They are incredible. We changed the location last year and it worked out really well for us. This year we will be in a different place altogether. They do an amazing job. One of them works in the kitchen at Hotchkiss. I have another small group of women from Pine Grove who have taken over the garden center (Vicky Williams, Rebecca Richardson, and Mary Rogers) which has become a very popular area. They do that. This is our high end garden items, not vases which come from the florist but some garden architecture. They have taken it over. The gal that runs that for me is from Louisville; she is a summer person. There have been three different women ever since we started that area that have run it and they all have the same esthetic sense which is really nice. That has become a very popular section for our volunteers as well as our buyers. Lynn Nania who has been with us for years was President of our affiliate for a while. She is my utility player. She always takes what we jokingly refer to as “Menswear” which is the hardware section. She does sporting goods. She will do business or whatever needs to be done. She was in a very bad car accident this year so I don’t know if we are going to have her or not. She is amazing. The reason she won Menswear is because they had been building their house, so she was the only woman when she took it over who knew anything about the stuff in the hardware section. True Anderson from East Canaan is another
stalwart. She does the kitchen stuff, the pots and pans. Another woman Grace Dietrich from Pine Plains does the dishes. That is a whole section. What we do is have like pods of tables. A pod will be all the sporting goods. And another pod will be all dishes, and another pod will be all of the tchotchkes. The guys that come in, if they don’t care about anything but hardware, they are directed to the hardware spot. It is not mixed up; you don’t have to paw through things.
JPM:That is very well organized.
JM:Same thing with small kitchen appliances is another area which is run by Hank Rosler. Glasses are in another section. Furniture is closest to the door because that is the heavy stuff. There is my area which is the Tiffany Room which is the more high end stuff. (Her helpers include Rodney Dugas and Leda Roberts. Ed.) I figure after running this thing I deserve to be able to sit the night of the sale. It works out well. Different people do different things. (Health & Beauty is Lee Kass. Holiday is Pat Macura. Art is Mary Fordyce and Janet Marks Ed.) We have a large group of people there on Friday might who are wandering about with Habitat shirts who are working. I have wonderful cashiers and wrappers; they have a system. We do give out numbers Friday night and Saturday, but it doesn’t really make a difference because everybody gets in. It is not like the first 10. Not everyone wants to see the same thing. We are open Friday night from 6 until 8, and people have started lining up at 3 in the afternoon so they get the first numbers. (Utility people are Nancy Moskowitz, Joann Taber, dick Taber, Betty Tyburski and Lisa White. Ed.) That is fine. We have been doing this for 26 years.
JPM: I think you have it down to a science.
JM:Every year I have an epiphany about something like we used to just unpack the boxes. People pack things in very strange ways. You don’t have like things in a box; you will have a jumble. We spent a lot of time wandering around with these Hotchkiss heavy duty plastic carts. You are unpacking stuff and wandering around everywhere. You are all over the place, plus you have all the garbage the newspapers and stuff from unpacking. One year the epiphany was that we are going to set up tables down by the door and do triage. We will unpack stuff and put all the glassware in one area, or the dishes, or the pots and pans. Then we will take all that stuff to the place where they are sold. I wish I had a pedometer to see how exactly how much mileage I put on running around. Last year’s epiphany was moving the children’s stuff down to a different area, and smaller furniture up which one of my volunteer’s had been after me to do for years. It was really good. It worked out.
JPM: When did the store come into being?
JM:December of 2005.
JPM:Tell me about that process.
JM:Lynn Nania whom I had mentioned earlier, my utility player, her husband Tony was the Chairman of the Geer Board of Directors. We are always looking for free storage for the donations. They had a little grey barn on their property down front on Route 7. I think Lynn had talked to Tony;
they thought that maybe it would be ok if we wanted to use it for storage. So Lynn and I went over as we were setting up for the tag sale in 2005. It had a big picture window. I thought storage, no store! John Pogue had always talked about a store. I think he meant a retail store which we are not. I said to Lynn, “Gee do you think Tony would let us make this a store instead of storage so we could sell year round?” “I don’t know but I’ll ask him.” I talked to Tony, and asked if I should go to the board to ask about my idea. “No I’ll handle it.” He did and they said sure. We took it over. We started using it in the first of October. I was there every weekend because I was still teaching at the school. I was cleaning it out; it was full of stuff. They were using it for storage. I had to get rid of the stuff. I borrowed a friend’s truck. There was stuff up on the second floor which you had to get to by a stepladder. It was old canceled checks from Geer, some of the patient’s personal effects. Someone who had died and they didn’t have a place to send the things. It was up and down this ladder until somebody said to me, “Why don’t you just open the window and throw the stuff out into the back of the truck.” So I did that and cleaned out a lot of stuff. I left the things that were obviously theirs there. I painted walls. At the time there was a toilet but the water was not turned on. We got the water turned on so I did not have to keep running up to McDonald’s to use the facilities. WE had a sink put in so we had a little half bath. I worked every weekend from the beginning of October until past Thanksgiving. We opened our doors on the first weekend in December with stuff that was left from the Tiffany Room at the tag sale. We get rid of stuff we don’t sell except for the Tiffany Room which the better stuff. That is what we stocked the store with when we opened. We were there for 5 ½ years until the space that we are currently in became available further up route & opposite Decker & Beebe.
I had seen this space from the outside but I was more interested in the space next door to it. I had been trying to find out information about it. The next thing I knew it had been rented. The landlord who happened to be there said, “What about this space?” I thought it was a house. I do not know what it was originally. That was summer or early fall and the next thing I know John Pogue is called me saying, “We need to look at a space for the store.” It was basically two rooms and two rooms upstairs. I though t it was a whole bunch of little rooms. There was a 20 x20 foot room in the front and then a big open space which had been used as a warehouse which was perfect for our needs and the same thing upstairs. It had become available to us. It was like when we first saw Bitterman Center “Oh Wow!” We moved in there on July, 2011. The back of it wasn’t in such great shape, but we were in the front setting up for the tag sale so that had to wait. The front room was the same size as the old store so it really was perfect. We just moved everything over to the new space. We opened in July, 2011. There is another building in the back which we lovingly refer to as the barn. I believe it was the next year we took that over. It is just a big old barn. Crane has been in there before us. We had been using what we called the overhang on the outside storage before that. We took over the barn. Three years ago this past Mother’s Day we took over the building that I first had looked at which we referred to as the annex. That is our better furniture and high end stuff, our art, lot of lamps and some really nice furniture. I am very fortunate to have wonderful donors in the area who give us wonderful things. Some things were donated by people who run estate sales, the things that have not sold with the approval of their clients. Some people are downsizing or leaving the area. They bring me some absolutely amazing stuff. It is
funny because I am still getting after 11 ½ years new customers. “I’ll be back: you have amazing stuff.” We joke about it because the store is called “This and that from Habitat” which is the name my husband came up with. That is what we are’ a little bit of this and a whole lot of that. We have glassware, dishes, tchotchkes, furniture, lamps, windows, doors, kitchen sinks, bathroom sinks, and sporting goods. We don’t take things like clothes; I leave that for somebody else. We don’t take for the most part books, unless they are really nice coffee table books.
JPM:There enough places that do book sales.
JM:The libraries and many others. It is amazing how many people like me do not want to throw away books. They want them to go someplace.
JPM:Noble has book sales, the library has book sales.
JM:The Fall Festival sells books so there are other places for books to go. Clothes they did not go enough and we did not have a lot. We were very selective, but they do not go enough to make it worthwhile.
JPM:Again there are other places for that.
JM:We don’t do those. We don’t do entertainment centers anymore because nobody wants them because their big televisions don’t fit. We don’t do mattresses because of the inherent problems; we don’t do the big old televisions because they are heavy and nobody wants them. They are not high definition. I had one woman who called one time she wanted to get rid of her big old television. I asked if it was a flat screen. “Well, it works just fine.” I wasn’t thinking quickly enough. I should have said, “Then why are you getting rid of it?” My head was not there yet. The list of what we don’t take is much smaller than what we do take. Last year I said the tag sale netted $37,000. The store netted $104,300. My goal since I run the store and the tag sale is within a 12 month period between the two to be able to underwrite the cost of a house. I am not quite there but I am pretty darn close. Every time I say that our treasurer Kathy Stupak who was one of our cheerleaders back in the 1970’s tells me to be quiet because I am working faster than the builders. It turned out better than I thought because I was hoping to clear $100,000 at the store and $40,000 at the tag sale but with the reverse numbers I was about $1300 ahead of what I was hoping for. It is all good.
JPM:What are the months and the hours of the store?
JM:We just went back to our summer hours; from mid -May to mid- October we are open seven days a week from 10 am until 4 pm. In October to mid-May we go back to our winter hours which are Friday, Saturday, and Sundays from noon until 4. Once the summer people go away and the leaf peepers, the week day walk-in traffic dwindles. I need a life because when the store is open, I am there except when we are setting up for the tag sale.
JPM:Yes you do need a life; it absorbs all your time as you are passionate about it.
JM:I would rather do that than swing a hammer.8.
JPM:Everybody has their gifts.
JM:I am batter at that. I did that when we were working over on Sand Road in Falls Village, but I enjoy this. It is fun. I have wonderful donors; I have wonderful customers. I really enjoy it.
JPM:You can’t do something like what you are doing unless you really enjoy it.
JM:I never thought I would because the funniest part is when we moved here I don’t know how many years ago, but my mom used to go to tag sales. I would never go. She would say, “Why not?” I said because I don’t want to paw through other people’s things. I wouldn’t even go to the dump, the transfer station swap shop. If she were still alive, she would be laughing at me. I am sure she is. You didn’t want to go to tag sales and look what you are doing now.
JPM:Who are the ladies that run the store day by day?
JM:This time of year I have Peg Magyar ( Hungarian) from Canaan who is there Mondays. Tuesdays I have a new volunteer Lynn Cline. She was born and brought up in Canaan. She lives in Sharon now. She was a Hunter. Wednesdays I used to have a split between two people, but I now have Margaret Runge from Millerton. She alternates Wednesday with Chris Butler, a gentleman who unfortunately has taken a paid job so we have lost him. Thursdays I have Charlene Donato from Florida but she lives at Lone Oak Camp Ground for the summer. Fridays it’s Shirley LaChance from East Canaan. She was a Waldron and grew up in Sharon. Saturdays it is me but John Pogue is there. On Sundays in the summer it is Mary Fordyce and me. In the winter Peg goes back to Sundays to work. So there are three of us there. The weekends are the busiest, especially this past weekend when we had a 50% off sale. I made a pretty nice deposit this week. In fact it was probably half of the entire month as the sale started on Thursday. So just like the tag sale, it started slow. I think the very first month December of 2005 I deposited $750 or some such thing. Today I deposited over $8,500. Of course the governor gets some of that in sales tax.
JPM: That is wonderful.
JM: This is the primary fund raiser for building houses herein the Northwest corner followed by the tag sale. Every other year we have a wine tasting; this is the year for the wine tasting. On the off years we figure out something else. We have had birdhouse auctions. We used to have a thing called “Artists Known and New”. We did that in conjunction with New Milford affiliate down in Kent where we had local people paint, this wan when I first got involved with Habitat, or do picture frames. We would supply them for the artist to decorate or paint whatever or they could provide their own. The bird houses were fun. One of the artists who resided in Cornwall did one a Plexiglas one which was kind of interesting. The next year he did an anatomically correct male that was almost life sized for a bird house. It was hysterical. You can imagine what the perch was. One person made one out of a hubcap which was very clever. The central part was popped out and that was where the bird got in and out. Another person made heads almost like a sculpture of the head. One was Einstein and one was Freud.
The Einstein one had a bid mustache on it and they were just white, but the person had written on the heads like for Einstein all different equations all over his head in all different directions. For Freud it was Id, Ego, and different psychological terms. The funniest part about them was that the person who bought them (We had the store at that point, the old store over by Geer) one day bought them back to me because they were leaving for England. She couldn’t take them with her and she gave them back to me to sell. They were gone in about 2 weeks. It was hysterical. They were very cleverly done. We have had different things like that.
Last year we were celebrating out 25th anniversary as an affiliate and rather than have a traditional fundraiser, we had a celebration at Elaine LaRoche’s place Lion Rock between Lakeville and Sharon. We had a band and a fabulous dinner. Different people were honored. John Pogue was honored as one of the founding fathers of our affiliate.
JPM:I have the picture in his oral history folder. You were there too.
JM:I was honored as the representational volunteer and the Hewitts were honored as representative of the different donors. They were involved early on. It was a wonderful evening. It was a beautiful evening. Everybody was so gracious and sop kind. It was a very nice celebration. That was very special, very meaningful for me and I am sure for John and the Hewitts as well.
JPM:Thank you so much for your information. I really appreciate it.
JM:You are very welcome. Thank you for asking me. I appreciate it.