Jason Olson, Deseret Morning News
Marita Gladson, center, talks with Melissa Albee and Darlene Bradley at yard sale in Elk Ridge.

ELK RIDGE — Dozens of families put their housewares up for sale Saturday morning to raise money for a medical center in Ghana, West Africa.

Elk Ridge resident George Thaut, 17, said he'd been trying to come up with an Eagle Scout project that would make an impact beyond the local community.

"I wanted it to be something big," he said. "And I wanted it to get a lot of people involved."

His mother, Allison, suggested they perform two good deeds at once — coordinate a city-wide household cleanup and host yard sales for charity.

George then approached his 62-year-old neighbor, Gayle Weber, who, along with older sister Marita Gladson, 71, raises money to support the Saboba Medical Centre in Northern Ghana. He asked if they would like the African medical facility to be the beneficiary of the planned yard sales. Weber gladly accepted the offer to help people she and her sister deeply love.

"There are some good people in Elk Ridge," Weber said. "(The Ghanians) are like family to us."

Weber and Gladson went to Ghana with their missionary parents in the 1940s and spent their childhoods there. Weber said the living conditions for the people in Ghana were so poor she remembers crying for them.

"It was so destitute and impoverished," she said. "The poorest American is rich there."

When they returned to America, Gladson and Weber decided to coordinate help efforts. They managed to raise money for 10 water wells. Now they're focusing their attention on the Saboba Medical Centre, which has one full-time, overworked doctor, Gladson said.

"She works hard," she said. "But she can't keep it up."

Also, the region was hit by a flood in recent weeks, Weber said, and 300,000 people are homeless because their mud houses were washed away. Weber said the doctor told her the flood has also brought cholera, malaria and typhoid epidemics into the area.

"We're talking about a people who will be wiped out," Weber said.

The local community's response to the plight in Ghana has been tremendous, Weber said. About 31 families signed up to sponsor fund-raising yard sales at their homes Saturday, and about 50 households contributed items to sell. By Friday night, they had collected $1,060.

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Allison Thaut said hundreds of people started showing up at the family's yard sale at 7:30 a.m. Saturday. Two hours later, only a handful of books, blankets, shelves and sweaters remained.

"They clean you out really quick," she said.

George said he was surprised by the response.

"It's just been a party here all morning," he said.

Meanwhile, down the street, a steady flow of customers sifted through Weber's and Gladson's merchandise Saturday morning outside Weber's home on Canyon View Drive.

"People are good," Weber said of the shoppers. "And it all adds up."

Weber said people can find out more about the Saboba Medical Centre and humanitarian efforts in Ghana at sabobamedicalcentre.net.

E-mail: jdana@desnews.com