Garage sales for a good cause

Jeanine and Kurt Thurmaier hold several garage sales a year to support their ministry in Tanzania.
Jeanine and Kurt Thurmaier hold several garage sales a year to support their ministry in Tanzania.

DeKALB — Kurt Thurmaier calls it “the other sale.”

People give him stuff to sell to different people to raise money to give to other people, the DeKalb man said. His garage is always full of items donated by family, friends, neighbors and complete strangers.

“It’s all about giving back,” his wife, Jeanine Thurmaier, said. “That’s what we’ve decided to do for the next 25 years.”

Surrounded by donated furniture and tables of toys, records, books and everything else imaginable, the couple hosted the third semi-annual Tanzania Garage Sale Fundraiser at their DeKalb home last weekend. Like their upcoming August sale, all proceeds will go toward Tanzania Development Support.

The couple became interested in Tanzania four years ago when they spent their 25th wedding anniversary as guests of longtime friend Leo Kazeri in Musoma, a district in northern Tanzania near Lake Victoria. Kazeri, a Catholic priest who graduated with Kurt Thurmaier from La Follette School of Public Affairs in 1983, is the business manager for Nyegina Secondary School, a boarding school with 500 students.

Saying it was “a real eye opener,” the couple was so moved by the conditions there they decided to help by forming a nonprofit organization.

“There are no wealthy countries in Africa,” Jeanine Thurmaier said. “We always want more and better. But they are always so appreciative of everything.”

She added that the Tanzanian people were probably a little surprised when the couple kept their promise of coming back to help, something a lot of people probably tell them without following through on it.

The group’s first project, completed last month after three years, was raising $150,000 to build a dormitory for 160 girls, allowing them to continue their education.

The current goal is to raise $450,000 to build a library and resource center for teachers. Kurt Thurmaier said the library will benefit the village and its schools, while the resource center can be used by teachers from area elementary and secondary schools.

In the main district, Kurt Thurmaier said there is only one library to serve more than 2 million people.

To kick off the project, the Thurmaiers are part of a group that plans to climb Mount Kilimanjaro the first week of June. Their goal is to raise $19,341, equal to the number of feet in the famed mountaintop. According to their website, $14,857 had been raised as of last week.

The challenge of climbing the mountain, Kurt Thurmaier said, is symbolic of the daunting task of trying to raise so much money.

To donate to the cause, checks made out to Tanzania Development Support can be sent to Tanzania Development Support, 201 Thornbrook Road, DeKalb, IL 60115. Anyone interested in donating to the next garage sale or taking part in an annual summer work trip to Tanzania can contact Kurt Thurmaier at 815-510-2224 or email him at

For more information visit

Loading more