Think that vintage vase you bought on eBay padded an antique dealer's pockets? Your money may have helped feed a family instead. Psychology students at North Georgia College and State University (NGCSU) in Dahlonega, Ga., are using the popular online auction Web site to sell charity donations to benefit their local thrift store and food bank, the Community Helping Place.

NGCSU psychology professor and Psi Chi adviser Chuck Robertson, PhD, came up with the e-auction idea when he realized antique dealers were buying up the community thrift store's items and selling them for more money at their own stores.

To put profit back into the hands of the Community Helping Place, he and NGCSU's Psi Chi members at set up an eBay nonprofit account for the store and find items to sell. Students photograph and post items on the site, answer questions from potential buyers, and package and ship the items. Top sellers have included an old bicycle, which sold for more than $200, and an accordion that sold for $140.

The money they make helps the Community Helping Place stock the food bank and help low-income families with rent or utility payments.

Students have found that it pays off to stay on top of what's hot on eBay: "We've found out the hard way what things don't sell," such as VCRs, says student Courtney Winterbottom.

--J. Chamberlin