North Marion auction turns online, raises more than $43,000
Sitting back in the wake of another successful North Marion All-Schools Auction, it's hard for organizers to believe the event was even pulled off, let alone raised more than $43,000 for the North Marion School District.
Three months ago, the event's seven-person board was preparing to welcome several hundred guests to Woodburn Legacy Health Center for the 13th iteration of the annual silent auction, live auction, dinner and community social.
Then disaster struck.
The day before the event's scheduled March 14 date, the state went into COVID-19 prevention mode, limiting gatherings of more than 250 people.
"We had everything ready, people in place, items ready, venue ready – everything until they shut things down the day before we were supposed to have the auction," board chair Lisa Holum said.
A year's worth of work and tens of thousands of dollars were hanging in the balance. For more than a decade the All-Schools Auction has been a staple fundraiser for the school district, bringing in hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional funding that gets dispersed across all levels of education.
The auction committee works with the school district, which submits requests through educators and district employees for needed items such as musical instruments, playground equipment, athletic equipment and more.
Last year's event had raised a record $57,284 and this year's organizing committee was eager to top that in an effort to fulfill the dozens of requests for funds across the district.
"We knew there were a lot of groups from the school who were already depending on the funds," Holum said. "We had requests in from different groups and staff. We knew what the need was. It was bigger than ever."
The organizers were in a holding pattern, waiting like everyone else to see if the state would recover from the COVID-19 pandemic in time to hold a make-up event. But as the weeks continued to creep forward, it was becoming clear that the committee would have to make a decision soon.
"We had a meeting and we needed to decide," Holum said. "Everything's closing down for the summer. We still can't have gatherings more than 24. How are we going to make this work?"
If they skipped a year, a number of classrooms that were anticipating a much-needed lift would be left hanging for the next school year. And dozens of auction items that had been procured over the past 12 months would expire.
The committee decided to move the event entirely online. With summer looming, they wanted to make sure to put the auction together before community members went the way of summer vacation.
"We literally put this together in 10 days," Holum said. "We wanted to make it happen before school was out, because we didn't want to lose the contact. Once school is done, your mentality changes a little bit."
Fortunately, the auction had an ace up their sleeve — Gary McLaren. The North Marion alum and owner of McLaren Auction Services in Aurora has donated his time every year to host the live portion of the All-Schools Auction. As it would happen, his staff was very familiar with hosting online auctions and helped the organizing committee transition the event to the Internet.
In a little over a week and a half, organizers sorted through hundreds of silent auction items, discarding expired items such as event tickets that were no longer being held, and rearranged them into new packages. Each package was photographed and uploaded onto a site where patrons had a week to go through the items and raise their bids.
"The platform we were using told us all their other auctions that moved online had done approximately half of what we've done before," Holum said. "We were shooting for $25,000. That would at least give us something, more than nothing."
The final tally after the last auction items closed on June 16 blew that number out of the water. While $43,000 was significantly less than what they were hoping to raise going into the event in March, it was more than has been raised in a number of years earlier in the auction's history.
"We were thrilled with where we ended up," Holum said. "We had people who had friends and family that were bidding all over the state. We had some winners that were outside of the community as well."
Every single auction package was sold, and the event's annual Raise the Paddle fundraiser where guests place donation bids in a live auction format brought in nearly $7,000 toward new playground equipment for the North Marion primary and elementary students. In total, the event has raised $398,182 over the course of its history.
"The reason why we do this is to be able to give back to our kids and help fill in some gaps for them and for the school," Holum said. "That's our goal every year and we were just thrilled to be able to give back as much as we were able to this year when it looked like we weren't able to do much for anybody.
"Especially for the size of our community, it just speaks volumes on the people that are there to support all of our students and our school."
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