June 20th, 2012
Opal Ahrens is a pro at yard sales. She knows how to collect quality items from a variety of people and places, how to get the goods tagged and organized, and how to get the word out. In the spring, Opal decided that she wanted to have another yard sale, but this time, she had personal inspiration–her nephew Paul House, who spent nearly 23 years on Tennessee’s death row for a crime that evidence (including DNA) demonstrated he did not commit.
Opal partnered up with Paul’s sister-in-law, Pam House, and they begin planning a yard sale to benefit TADP. Before this nightmare of Paul’s wrongful conviction happened to their own family, the two didn’t give the death penalty much thought. But since Paul’s ordeal, they have become passionate advocates for death penalty repeal.
Many of us feel overwhelmed when looking at a big issue like the death penalty, and we wonder how to begin to make a difference. But Opal and Pam didn’t let the task overwhelm them. Instead they focused, not on what they couldn’t do, but instead, on what they could do and then…here is the key… they did it!
Last Saturday, June 16, in Knoxville, they held a yard sale for TADP with Paul and Joyce House helping with the sorting and labeling, and Marty, Paul’s brother, manning the money box. Marty had just come off a late shift of work with no sleep but volunteered to sit in the heat all day to help out.
The sale raised nearly $700 for TADP to continue our efforts to educate Tennesseans about the fatal flaws with the death penalty system. But it did something else. It provided an opportunity for folks just looking for a good deal to meet Paul House, hear some of his story, and to witness a living example of the risk we take with a system so flawed that to date 140 people have been wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death–and those are only the cases we know about.
This family’s commitment to the work of repeal is inspiring to me, and I wanted to share it with you. And who knows, maybe it will become a House family tradition! Not all of us have a lot of time or resources to dedicate to the work of repeal, but in big and small ways, we can make a difference. We all have some gift, skill, or passion that can be used to further the cause. Thank you House family for all your work and inspiration!
(Pictured left to right: Paul House, Joyce House, and legislative staff)