Janesville41.7°

Weekend give-away on again

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Catherine W. Idzerda
December 19, 2008
— A one-time giveaway that morphed into a miniature charity will return this weekend.

From 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Joanne Higgins, her family and friends are hosting a free items "sale" in the driveway her home at 1152 N. Pontiac Drive.


During that time, Higgins also will be preparing to speak at Monday's city council meeting about her need for a permit for the giveaways.


"They said we had to file for a permit, and then we could go ahead with it this weekend," Higgins said.


Gale Price, manager of the city's building and development services, said Higgins has applied for a permit under the city's home occupation ordinance.


Higgins is not likely to get the permit because her "business" would increase traffic in the neighborhood, Price said. The ordinance is for home-based businesses that do not affect neighbors, Price said. A business that increases traffic would not be allowed.


Neighborhood Services probably will make a ruling next week, Price said, and whether the city takes any enforcement action in the meantime would be up to Neighborhood Services.


Any appeal of the ruling on the permit would go to the zoning board of appeals, Price said.


The story started last October, when Higgins, Jared Holcomb and their children-David, Emily, Chase and Anna-sorted through their belongings, arranged them in the driveway and put out a sign: Free.


The "sale" was so successful she held another. This time, other people donated items.


Again, it was a big success.


But attention from the media transformed the giveaway into something bigger, and neighbors soon complained about the traffic. Some suggested she was running a business out of her home, which would require different zoning.


"I'm not running a business," Higgins said.


Nor does she have plans to make the giveaways a weekly event.


"Maybe we would have it three or four times a year," she said.


Many have suggested she operate the giveaways out of a church, but she doesn't want to do that.


"I feel uncomfortable in a church, and I think there are a lot of people like me who wouldn't be comfortable in a church," Higgins said.


Meanwhile, Higgins' brother has created a Web site, www.freestuffatangels.org, listing upcoming giveaways and allowing people who need something-or have something to give away-to connect with each other.


The informal organization is called "Angels and Wings."


"Somebody might say 'Hey, I've got this bed to give away,' and somebody else might say, 'Hey, I know somebody who needs that,'" she said.


If you go

What: Angels and Wings free rummage "sale"


When: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday.


Where: 1152 N. Pontiac Drive, Janesville.


Needed: Donations of blankets, clothing, coats, household appliances and toys and books for children. No large furniture, please.



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