100 Miles For A Mission

Published 5:04 pm Tuesday, August 6, 2013

BURKEVILLE — “The beautiful part about it is that so many people benefit from it. Because the fire departments and the churches and everybody gets involved,” says Jerri Morton, coordinator of the 100-Mile Yard Sale in southside Virginia, “And the economy is down and people get to buy stuff for cheap.”

The 100-Mile Yard Sale stretches from Amelia to South Boston, with the small town of Burkeville as its hub. Those interested in selling their wares set up along the 100-mile long route, which follows U.S. Routes 460, 360 and 15. Planned for the first Saturday of July, Jerri’s business card boasts the upcoming yard sale dates for the next 11 years.

Around 11 a.m., Jerri rested for a few minutes on a sofa in a house in Burkeville, as she answered questions during the fifth annual 100-Mile Yard Sale on July 5. People streamed through the house, which Jerri had dedicated entirely to selling items. They chatted, tried out couches and kept making offers for the old-fashioned washer on the porch, which Jerri insisted wasn’t for sale.

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The interview was interrupted every now and then, as Jerri stopped to haggle over the price of four chairs or to let people know where they can get free water.

She had already sold quite a bit by 11 a.m. Every penny of the money she receives during the sale goes to Burkeville Baptist Church, says Jerri.

When Jerri moved to Burkeville, she began attending Burkeville Baptist Church. The church was wonderful, she says. But, she didn’t think they were doing enough to support missions. As she got to thinking about the intersection of Routes 360 and 460 right there in Burkeville, a hub of sorts, the idea of a large-scale yard sale slowly began to form.

Woodrow “Woody” Fisher, pastor of Burkeville Baptist Church, says Jerri is the church’s “Missions Cheerleader.”

The money she has been able to donate over the last few years has indeed gone to missions. “It’s been a huge encouragement to everybody,” says Fisher.

This year, she raised so much money that some of it was also used for the church’s building fund. It’s a big blessing, says Pastor Fisher.

Jerri has been living in Burkeville since 2006 and she loves it.

But, she has also always loved going to yard sales, too. And not just the single-family sales one might happen upon by accident on Saturday morning. She and her husband have traveled to the 127 Corridor Sale, a 650-mile yard sale that stretches from Michigan to Alabama. They have been to the Route 11 Crawl in the Shenandoah Valley.

Although Jerri likes antiques and unusual items, yard sales aren’t about buying and selling stuff. For her, they are about meeting people.

As she spoke with The Herald during the morning of this year’s 100-Mile Yard Sale, she stopped several times to remind visitors to sign her guest book.

People have come from all over to attend the big event: Prince George, Suffolk, Appomattox, Chesterfield, Saxe, Wylliesburg.

Jerri says she had some opposition. Not all local officials were pleased with the idea, according to Jerri.

But, she says they changed their tune once they saw how many people it drew into the area. Now, Jerri says it has the support of the Mayor of Burkeville and the town council.

The first year, the yard sale was 40-miles long, stretching from Keysville to Amelia. That was in 2009. Now there are sponsors in Farmville, Blackstone and Rice, as well.

She never thought it would get this big, says Jerri, but each year it seems to double or triple in size.

In fact, she says that at 8 a.m. that morning there were so many people in the house where she was selling items they could barely move.

Does Jerri envision any major changes? “I think it’s about as perfect as it can get,” she says, although she does hope her husband of 33 years, Kenneth Morton, won’t have to work so hard next year.

Jerri is 73 and says she’ll be coordinating the event another 11 years. The year she is 85, she doesn’t plan to coordinate or even have her own sale. It will be July 6, 2025, the first date that does not appear on her business card.

That day, Jerri plans to go shopping. Then, she says with a smile and a twinkle in her eye, “I’m going to go see what the 100-Mile Yard Sale is like.”