By Julie Lawrence Special to Published Apr 14, 2010 at 5:28 AM

It's spring cleaning time and for parents of young children, there's often no greater feeling than bagging up all the clothes and toys the kids have outgrown and ditching them forever.

But, as they say, one man's trash is another man's treasure. This is the basic principal behind Just Between Friends, a largest maternity and children's consignment sales event in the country. What began in 1997 in Tulsa, Okla., in president and co-founder Shannon Wilburn's living room has grown to 100 franchises in 22 states.

Wisconsin is on the list. This week, April 14-17, the Wisconsin State Fair Park transforms into a wonderland of second-hand kids gear, from clothing to toys to books to cribs at discounted rates.

It's a steal for thrifty parents on the hunt, but, as a giant consignment store, it's also an added business opportunity for Milwaukeeans looking to make a little (or a lot) of cash on the loads of items they no longer need.

Gently used goods have become a commodity in a rocky economy and more and more parents are looking toward stores like Bay View's Half Price Kids Stuff, 2675 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., and Wauwatosa's Tuesday's Child, 7471 Harwood Ave., to find a better value for non-permanent items.

"At the beginning of 2009, we had 72 franchises across the country. We have grown by 38 percent this year and we believe much of that growth is due to the recession as more families across the country search for ways to save money and earn money. Just Between Friends provides families a way to do both -- with our spring and fall consignment events," says Wilburn.

"Many of our new franchise owners are women who have left the corporate world and see Just Between Friends as a great business opportunity. Others are families who are opening a franchise as an investment in their future."

These events attract thousands of shoppers, consignors and volunteers. Just Between Friends operates a well-organized, bargain event that benefits all involved, the consignors, the franchisee and the community as a whole.

This week's schedule:

Wednesday, April 14
10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Admission $2 (18 & older)

Thursday, April 15
10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Free admission

Friday, April 16
10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
25 percent off sale
Free admission

Saturday, April 17
9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Half price sale
Free admission

Julie Lawrence Special to staff writer Julie Lawrence grew up in Wauwatosa and has lived her whole life in the Milwaukee area.

As any “word nerd” can attest, you never know when inspiration will strike, so from a very early age Julie has rarely been seen sans pen and little notebook. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee it seemed only natural that she major in journalism. When offered her an avenue to combine her writing and the city she knows and loves in late 2004, she knew it was meant to be. Around the office, she answers to a plethora of nicknames, including “Lar,” (short for “Larry,” which is short for “Lawrence”) as well as the mysteriously-sourced “Bill Murray.”