By Nita Johnson
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
Get out your checkbooks and cash stash and prepare for the annual United Aid auction later this month.
Previously known as the United Way auction, this year’s event will offer some new twists to the annual fundraising event.
Set for February 20 - 23 at the London Community Center, United Way director Judy Nicholson has already procured many items for this year’s auction. But with some organizational changes in the United Way structure, this year’s event is being hosted by the United Aid.
“Due to changes in the United Way system, this effort was to ensure that all donated money stays local,” Nicholson explained. “We continue to support 14 local organizations, administer the summer feeding program, provide emergency food and shelter, and we helped in the tornado relief last year.”
Nicholson said currently there were no changes locally with the United Way organization, but board members decided to change the name of the auction to United Aid.
“That is our safety net to ensure that the money raised stays local,” she said. “The board members and I decided to get back to our roots with United Aid, which is what the program was called when it began in 1956.”
Nicholson said this year’s auction would feature items from local vendors including a pontoon boat rental from Holly Bay, gift certificates from area vendors, ham and meat lovers packages from Robinson Sausage, jewelry, items for sports lovers and pet lovers, knives, a recliner, a microwave, baked goods, home decor, tools and many other items.
“Of course, we will have the Sweet Shop and the honey buns,” she added. “We’re looking for items in the Sweet Shop that have a story to them, like a grandmother’s recipe or some sentimental story.”
Donations for the auction will be accepted beginning on Monday, Feb. 18 at the community center, and the live auction will kick off on Wednesday, Feb. 20 and will run from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. for three nights. Saturday’s broadcasts and auctions will run from 9 a.m. until 12 noon.
A new feature this year will highlight two of the Wednesday night auctioneers — Ward Stokes with Cumberland Valley National Bank and Dwight Larkey of Larkey’s HVAC. Stokes and Larkey will compete for bids in a contest called “Bankers vs. Bikers.” The loser will dress in either a banker or biker outfit and wear it to their workplace on the Monday following the end of the auction.
“The winner is the one who raises the most money through votes,” Nicholson said. “We think this will be a lot of fun, seeing who wins this contest.”
In a take-off of the popular “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” show, this year’s auction will also offer a “Phone a Friend” competition in which volunteers will call their friends and ask for a $250 donation. The callers participating in that event will receive a T-shirt with a crest of the Phone A Friend contest on the front, and the United Aid logo printed on the back.
Technology perks will also play a key role this year. Nicholson said specialists are working now to broadcast the live auction through local satellite so that patrons of Weaver’s Hot Dogs can view the event. Local cable channel WOBZ-TV and WFTG-AM radio will also broadcast the event live each night.
Returning auctioneers will include Laurel County Judge Executive David Westerfield, Laurel County Sheriff John Root, Tourism Commission Co-Director Rodney Hendrickson, Laurel County Jailer Jamie Mosley, School Board member Bud Stuber, Sentinel-Echo Publisher Willie Sawyers, Laurel County Attorney Jodi Albright, Commonwealth’s Attorney Jackie Steele, Pastor Lonnie Marcum, Garry Conley, Tony Brown, Mike Giles, and John Ross Yaden.
“The auctioneers on Friday night will be the same as last year — the county judge, the sheriff, the county attorney and the Commonwealth’s attorney, but there won’t be a pie in the face like last year,” Nicholson laughed. “Even without that, we’re expecting to have a good time and we hope everyone will tune in, drop by, and bid on these items.”