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Sue Bush has Attic Angel and a black-and-white Nesco cooker to thank for some of her favorite family memories.

“Whenever my family comes home, we go to our cottage and the first thing the kids want is for me to make ribs in this cooker,” Bush said with a laugh.

Bush bought the cooker at an Attic Angel garage sale, long before she was an official Angel herself.

Over the years Bush, 68, has acquired many more memories at Attic Angel, a Madison social service organization that is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year: volunteering at luncheons, helping her grandmother move in to the Attic Angel residence, attending meals with her parents when they became residents.

“My first memory was going to visit a family friend at the old Attic Angels location with my parents,” Bush said. “He was a very special person in our life – kind of an adopted family member.”

Attic Angel volunteers have been making those connections for generations, providing services to children and the elderly and helping fund a number of area nonprofits with similar missions. On Friday, the organization will host its annual garage sale to raise money for the Goodman Community Center and Community Partnerships Inc., two programs that provide mental health services for adolescents.

“Throughout the 125-year history, the organization has focused on what the needs of the community are and how can we marshal our resources — whether it’s hands or funds — to enhance health and human service needs,” said Mary Ann Drescher, Attic Angel Association president.

The Bush family’s association with the group dates to the 1960s, but the Attic Angel story began in 1889.

As the story goes, a local family couldn’t provide for their newborn twins’ basic clothing needs. Two sisters, Mary and Elva Bryant, heard about the family’s situation and decided to enlist some friends to sew items for them. The Bryant sisters realized there were other needy children and families in the community, so the two started adopting families to sew for.

“The sisters and their friends weren’t able to keep up, so they started going through their attics to find stuff,” Drescher said. “One day, they were coming down from the attic with arms full of things for the families, and their dad said, ‘Oh, here come my attic angels.’ That’s how the name was born.”

The group went on to start Madison’s first clinic for babies, create a visiting nurses program and build nursing facilities.

Over the years, the group organized cookbooks, fashion shows, charity balls, and a home and garden tour that inspired the current garage sale.

Drescher said it takes all year to set up for the now two-day sale at High Point Church. Volunteers are enlisted to collect, fix, organize and price items. The goods — which range from furniture and home essentials to artwork and jewelry – fill the entire basement of the Attic Angel Association building. By the time of the sale, the rooms are packed floor to ceiling with boxes, bags and furniture.

“Everything is moved to the church to be set up,” Drescher said. “Once all of those displays are set up, they could put department stores windows to shame. It is absolutely gorgeous.”

Drescher anticipates upward of 1,200 shoppers over the course of the weekend.

Bush’s family has been busy helping move items and set up for the sale.

“My youngest just graduated from college and she’ll be getting new furniture for her apartment in Minneapolis,” she said.

Like her mother before her, Bush’s daughter is following in her mother’s footsteps.

“She’s helped out with a sale on a snow day and has helped out while home over Christmas break,” Bush said. “If she ends up in Madison, I’d wager that she’d become an Angel someday.”

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