In the 15 years the Ocean City Board of Realtors has held its summer plant sale fundraiser, local residents have learned to shop early for the best selection.

So, last weekend, Joyce and John Andrews’ yard on West Avenue was mobbed for the first hour of the Saturday sale, which benefits Ocean City Waves of Caring.

Shoppers quickly snapped up most of the 70 hanging baskets, a favorite plant in Ocean City, where yards tend to be small and porches are big, said Vicki Heebner, of Somers Point, the board administrator.

A bit later, the first-timers came out, including Carol Rowlands, of Ocean City and Bethlehem, Pa., who heard about it from a neighbor, and Barry McCarty, of Ocean City and Nazareth, Pa.

McCarty picked out some ornamental vinca. He said he had just the right location for profuse flowering ground cover.

Emery Keeler, of Ocean City, who saw the plant sale listed in the newspaper, said she liked the idea the sale was a benefit for a local charity. She selected three hanging baskets and some potted plants.

Gloria Votta, the Realtor group’s second vice president and chairwoman of its Community Service Committee, said Waves of Caring last year used the proceeds to provide toys for children in need around the holidays.

This year, the charity group will use the funds for prescriptions and gift cards for seniors in need, she said.

Votta, of Ocean City, said the annual plant sale is one of a series of events and efforts through which the Realtors give back to the community.

The board holds an annual food drive in February, and a coat-and-clothes drive in November, she said.

With the city’s air show last September, the Realtors held Bubblemania, selling T-shirts and bubble guns to raise money for the pediatric ward at Shore Medical Center in Somers Point.

The organization’s Circle of Excellence dinner and winter social honoring sales leaders also benefited the Ocean City Humane Society, she said.

The annual golf tournament raises money for the local Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association and for scholarships for Ocean City High School students.

The Realtors’ most recent fall fundraiser, a casino night, helped pay for school lunches for families struggling with damages from Hurricane Sandy, said Votta, an agent with Re/Max At The Shore.

The popular plant sale was started by John Andrews, who still has a lead role.

Ahead of this year’s sale, he led about a dozen Realtors in two auto caravans to Castagna Farms in Winslow Township, Camden County, to pick up the plants.

The family that grows the flowers has vacationed in Ocean City for a long time, Votta said. When their spring busy period is near an end, they donate the many plants available at the Realtor sale.

This year, the organization took pre-orders starting June 17, allowing locals to line up the annuals, perennials, flowering bushes and vegetables of their choice.

Judging by the first-hour frenzy, many buyers prefer to see the plants before selecting.

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More than 30 years’ experience reporting and editing for newspapers and magazines in Illinois, Colorado, Texas and New Jersey and 1985 winner of the Texas Daily Newspaper Association’s John Murphy Award for copy editing.