Couple raises nearly $50K for hospice care 

Joan (left) and Dennis Blay, volunteers at Haven Attic Resale Store, have helped Haven Hospice raise more than $50,000 by selling some of the donated items, like the instruments they’re holding, on eBay.
Joan (left) and Dennis Blay, volunteers at Haven Attic Resale Store, have helped Haven Hospice raise more than $50,000 by selling some of the donated items, like the instruments they’re holding, on eBay. (Photo by Megan V. Winslow)

Seven years ago, a beat-up watch was collecting dust in the Haven’s Attic Resale Store, a shop supporting Haven Hospice.   

Dennis Blay, an Attic volunteer, noticed the watch needed a new battery. He replaced the battery and took it home to do research. 

The watch looked like junk to Blay, but later that day he learned it was the same Seiko model that Roger Moore wore in the James Bond movies. The watch became very popular in the 1970s and ‘80s, so Dennis said he knew he had to try and sell it on eBay.   

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“If it was sold in the Attic, it would have sold for a max $10 or just sit on a shelf,” Dennis said. “So, my wife, Joan, and I prepared the watch and put it on eBay. It sold immediately for about $100.” 

Dennis Blay restocks the shelves of the Gainesville shop.
Photo by Megan V. Winslow Dennis Blay restocks the shelves of the Gainesville shop.

With that sale, a new passion was born: Find unusual items at the charity resale shops and sell them online to support Haven Hospice. Over the past seven years, they have sold hundreds of items, raising nearly $50,000 for those who cannot afford hospice care. 

“We have been blessed in our lives, 53 years of marriage,” Joan said. “We just feel like you need to do things for the less fortunate. It makes you feel better about yourself when you are helping other people. That applies to everything in life.” 

The Blay’s process begins with the store setting aside some collectible items, particularly valuable items and those that might sell better in a different Attic location. Items include antiques, jewelry, seasonable clothing and other valuables. 

Dennis will research items to determine if they are appropriate to sell on eBay, as well as to determine the pricing. 

Joan writes a description for each item—material type, color, condition, item name and cost. 

A variety of clear photos are taken at different angles per item, then quickly uploaded to eBay, along with a description. 

Joan Blay holds a wolf marionette she and her husband plan to list for sale on eBay to help raise funds for Haven Hospice.
Photo by Megan V. Winslow Joan Blay holds a wolf marionette she and her husband plan to list for sale on eBay to help raise funds for Haven Hospice.

Once an item sells, Joan carefully wraps it in bubble wrap and places it into a box for delivery. They save every box, paper, and wrap, so they can easily recycle for future shipments. 

The Blays are full of stories about unusual items that have crossed their path: a Lapis globe that sold for more than $400, a 3-foot ceramic sculpture that sold for more than $500, a 1915 handmade antique christening dress, grandfather clocks and nativity scenes. 

Dennis and Joan are no strangers to working together. The couple partnered in real estate before moving to Gainesville. They joked about their good cop, bad cop routine, which they used to deliver news to clients during their time as realtors. 

“It is easy volunteering with my wife,” Dennis said. “We are both at Haven Attic, doing different things, but it works because we have different abilities. We make a great team, always have.” 

Their spare bedroom contains antique watches, toys, designer clothing, and artwork, all waiting to be auctioned. Haven’s eBay sales have been around $6,000 to $8,000 annually. 

“It makes us feel really good,” Joan said. “This year, we are hoping for $10,000. We were over $5,000 for the first half of the year, so we are close to our goal for the Attic.” 

Haven has five Attic Resale Stores, including Chiefland, Gainesville, Lake City, Orange Park and St. Augustine. 

Sales generated at Haven Attic Resale Stores financially support Haven patients and families and many other people in the community served by Haven’s programs and services. The stores depend on support from donors, shoppers and volunteers like the Blays. 

Chess pieces await an appraisal before employees and volunteers determine whether the set's value justifies an eBay listing.
Photo by Megan V. Winslow Chess pieces await an appraisal before employees and volunteers determine whether the set’s value justifies an eBay listing.

“Money from Attic sales supports unreimbursed patient care as well as hospice and palliative care services provided in the community,” Haven’s Hailey Reidy wrote in an email. “No one is ever denied hospice care services at Haven because of an inability to pay.” 

The volunteer work Dennis and Joan do for the attic never goes unnoticed. 

“The Blays play a very unique role at the Attic,” Reidy said. “The Blays donate their time. They are volunteers. So, all the work they do for us raises money that we can otherwise spend on programs and services, which is awesome.” 

The hospice has a program called “No One Dies Alone” that arranges for a specially trained volunteer to be present when an individual does not have family nearby as the end of life approaches. It also provides camps for children and grievance counseling for friends and family. 

“They do so many good things for families going through a hard time,” Joan said. 

Joan Blay rings up purchases at Haven Attic Resale Shop. (1)
Photo by Megan V. Winslow Joan Blay rings up purchases at Haven Attic Resale Shop. (1)

Dennis and Joan have three sons, Allen, Steve, and Brian, who are all happily married. The Blays also have seven grandchildren, two of whom live in Gainesville, while the other five live in Tallahassee. 

“It is a lot of fun. You can spoil them. Do you all want candy and a bunch of sugar? Okay, sure kids, let’s go,” he joked. 

The snowball effect from a watch, which at first glance looked like junk, has turned into an opportunity to give back to the community and help families receive the care and support they need. 

“Volunteering here makes us feel wonderful,” Dennis said. “It lifts our spirit just to be able to help people out. No question about it.” 

Gainesville's Haven Hospice Attic Resale Store is located at 300 NW 8th Ave.
Photo by Megan V. Winslow Gainesville’s Haven Hospice Attic Resale Store is located at 300 NW 8th Ave.

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