The success of his Free Free Free Sale — really, it’s a giveaway, but donations to a Billings agency are always appreciated — led Trent Ayers, 13, to move this year’s event from his West End home to his church home, First United Methodist Church at 2800 Fourth Ave. N.
Thanks to the generosity of dozens of donors, Ayers once again has plenty of goods for his unique giveaway, now in its ninth year. The Free Free Free Sale is set for 8 a.m. through 2 p.m. Saturday, July 28, in Brother Van Hall at the downtown church.
In addition to giving away merchandise, Ayers and his parents, Rex and Beth, will be offering up to 100 shoppers a free sack lunch on Saturday.
“He told me one day, ‘What good is free stuff if you’re hungry?’” his mother said.
Since its inception, the Free Free Free Sale has benefited Family Promise of Yellowstone Valley, which works with Billings churches to provide meals, shelter and services to homeless families.
Last year’s sale raised nearly $1,100 for Family Promise, about $400 less than the 2016 total.
“Family Promise was the first nonprofit organization I was introduced to,” Trent said. “The more I learned, the more I realized how much they do to help others.”
Last fall, Trent figured out a way to help Family Promise even when he wasn’t holding his giveaway. The agency nominated him for an outstanding young philanthropist award given by the Association of Fundraising Professionals, and he won the regional competition and a check for $250. Family Promise representatives surprised the young winner by showing up at Ben Steele Middle School to deliver the news — and the check — in person.
“He donated that check right back to us,” said Felicia Burg, Family Promise of Yellowstone Valley’s development director. “He just has a heart of gold.”
The Free Free Free Sale delivers both direct and indirect benefits to Family Promise, according to Burg.
“Trent’s sale has had a huge impact for us. The monetary donation is incredible,” she said, “but even more than that it shows kids that other kids care about them, and it’s inspiring to the adults in the community.”
Family Promise volunteers plan to help the Ayers family set up for the sale Friday. Beth said that as in previous years, the agency has also helped promote the sale.
The Ayers said they’re not sure whether this year’s downtown location will mean business is brisker or more slack than the previous eight years.
“It could bring us a lot more people who need the stuff,” Beth said. “We think it will be a little different than previous years.”
For Trent, the best part of each sale is hearing shoppers’ stories. One year, a woman who’d hit a deer journeying to Billings to see her daughter stopped by for some apartment furnishings to tide her over while her car was being repaired. Another family came in soon after losing their home and its contents in a fire.
On several occasions, Beth said, families have returned to the Free Free Free Sale soon after bringing stuff home to donate other items they thought would be a benefit to someone else.
The Free Free Free Sale “allows everyone to help,” she said. “You can donate stuff or donate money, help with the sale, or help with a family. It’s definitely a community effort.”