Jefferson Award Winner Leads Huge Museum Funding EffortBy Sharon Chin

OAKLAND (KPIX 5) With a little humor and a whole lot of dedication, Judy Wilkinson is once again heading up Oakland’s famed White Elephant Sale, a vast and varied shoppers’ paradise that for nearly 60 years, has supported the Oakland Museum of California.

Every spring, thousands of people line up to snap up bargains at the organization’s warehouse near the Oakland Estuary. Everything from household goods to clothing, even a vintage store mannequin leg is up for grabs. Wilkinson has volunteered at the sale for 19 years as a member on the non-profit Oakland Museum Women’s Board. And as the board’s president for the last year, she has been in charge of the fundraiser, which raised more than $1.6 million for museum programs last year. That number amounts to about 10% of the museum’s budget, according to museum director Lori Fogarty.

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“Judy and the women’s board are the lifeblood of the museum, in terms of making possible the exhibits and educational programs every year,” Fogarty explained.

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Wilkinson is quick to point out the sale is a group effort, made possible by an army of about a thousand volunteers. They turn out year after year to help sort, price, and lovingly display all the donated treasures offered. And while Wilkinson, a retired computer programmer, is credited with helping to upgrade the non-profit’s operations from a paper to computer-based system, it’s her section at the sale, called bric-a-brac, that has really grabbed her heart. Items like a vintage statue or a small animal figurine are true treasures to her. But it is the museum itself that keeps Wilkinson motivated.

“I love the museum,” explained Wilkinson. “To walk around the museum and see our White Elephant logo on all the exhibits, you stand taller and proud.”

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The sale is March 3 and 4 from 10am to 4pm. It is free and open to the public.