Festival in Arlington raises funds for Operation Homefront | SLIDESHOW

ARLINGTON — They consider themselves one of the best-kept secrets in the area, albeit not by choice, so on Friday, Dec. 16 the organizers of the Blue Sky Swap Meet at the Arlington Municipal Airport did their best to get the word out for themselves and for Operation Homefront.

The Blue Sky Christmas Festival ran for 11 hours in the hangar at 19010 59th Dr. NE that serves as the swap meet’s regular site, and generated $1,800 in donations toward Operation Homefront’s annual holiday toy drive.

“Operation Homefront partnered with the Dollar Tree to purchase the kids’ toys with donations from the community,” said Christina Vasquez, event coordinator for Operation Homefront of Washington. “Laberta and Dale Pitcher, the proprietors of the Blue Sky Swap Meet, donated their space for this event, and we’re already talking with them about a baby shower for hundreds of mothers on March 24 of next year, where people could donate clothes as well.”

The Blue Sky Swap Meet touts itself as an indoor, heated, secure, lit and dry flea market and craft fair, where the Pitchers estimate they’ve seen about 6,000 browsers and shoppers walk through since the start of October this year.

“Our first Saturday, we saw 216 people,” Dale Pitcher said on Dec. 16. “We average between 360-420 people per Saturday now, although we’ve had up to 432. We have 76 vendor spaces available, and we had 52 vendors here this Friday.”

From the amount of foot-traffic they receive, Dale and Laberta believe that they have an opportunity to serve a couple of community needs, not only for thrifty shopping, but also for folks who are looking to sell their wares because a number of them are unable to support themselves in the current economy otherwise.

“A lot of them have been laid off and can’t find jobs because they’re too old or they’re handicapped in some other way,” Dale Pitcher said. “That’s why we try to make the lease and keep the lights on, even though we’re not really making any money ourselves.”

Vasquez thanked the Pitchers for helping to channel support back to military families in need, which Operation Homefront also serves through its Backpack Brigade, an annual event that collects new backpacks filled with school supplies for the school-aged children of military families.

“Each year, Operation Homefront chapters help military families get their children ready to go back to school,” Vasquez said. “This assistance allows families to focus on the other important back-to-school expenses, like new clothes and shoes. Taking some of the financial pressure off during that important time of year ensures that military kids can begin their school year with pride and confidence. In 2009 alone, more than 19,000 backpacks were provided to military children.”

For more information on the Blue Sky Swap Meet, call the Pitchers at 360-913-8181.


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