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posted: 6/27/2014 1:01 AM

Wheaton garage sale benefits children in Ghana through Touch a Life

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  • Touch a Life will hold its fifth annual garage sale this weekend in Wheaton to raise funds for a rehabilitative care center in Ghana.

      Touch a Life will hold its fifth annual garage sale this weekend in Wheaton to raise funds for a rehabilitative care center in Ghana.
    Courtesy of Beth Johnson

 
By Miles Dobis
mdobis@dailyherald.com

It's a small world and getting smaller.

For proof, look no further than this weekend when a Texas-based charitable organization will hold a garage sale in Wheaton to raise money for children in Ghana.

Such an international exchange of volunteers and resources is common for Dallas-based Touch a Life, a not-for-profit group with an emphasis on international aid.

Friday and Saturday, June 27 and 28, the group will sponsor its fifth annual garage sale in Wheaton to raise money for children who are abused and neglected in Ghana's dangerous fishing economy. The sale will run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. both days at the home of supporter Beth Johnson at 10 Muirfield Circle.

The four children supported by the sale (Gideon, Jonathan, Mary and Emepha) live in Touch of Life's rehabilitative care center in Ghana, with food, shelter and education provided by donations.

While now living in safety and comfort, many residents of the facility had unhappy childhoods after being sold into the dangerous Lake Volta fishing trade by their parents. Children at the center often need help to recover from abusive bosses or diseases like cholera.

"The conditions many of these young people had to work in are very dangerous," said Rachel Brown, the group's director of project development. "There are serious health and economic issues in the country and this facility really makes a difference."

Brown, a Wheaton native and graduate of Pepperdine University, was quickly drawn to not-for-profits as a way to apply her communications and journalism studies. She eventually settled on Touch a Life, which focuses its rescue and development efforts for victims of human trafficking in Ghana, Cambodia and Vietnam.

A 2008 trip to Ghana cemented her drive to help the youth of the country, and she has returned many times since.

"I'm privileged enough daily to work and interact with passionate people here in the U.S. and abroad," she said.

One of Touch a Life's main fundraisers is the annual garage sale based out of the home of Beth Johnson, Brown's mother.

Operated in association with the Wheaton Find Your Mark chapter, the sale takes contributions from more than a dozen of Johnson's neighbors in addition to friends and family who wish to contribute.

But Johnson wants to emphasize that this is no ordinary garage sale.

"In the past, we've called it a boutique sale, because it really encompasses more than just cheap items we want to get rid of," she said. "We sell everything from furniture to art to jewelry, and the emphasis is always on supporting the children."

Johnson first realized her passion for the Ghana project on a 2011 trip there with her daughter, and has been supporting the center through her efforts in Illinois ever since.

"Once she visited she really fell in love with the children and the volunteers," Brown said.

"It really opened my eyes to the world beyond Wheaton and showed me how passion and work from people back home can have a global impact," Johnson said.

The garage sale's goal this year is to raise $7,200, or enough to support all four children, ages 14 to 17, at the center for a year. And while Touch a Life has more glamorous fundraisers, such as wine and cheese nights, Brown considers this event one of her favorites.

"Community members not directly involved with what we do will stop by and donate whatever they can to this project," she said. "And I really think that speaks to the giving spirit of the community."

For more information on Touch a Life, visit touchalifekids.org

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