By Nita Johnson
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
In spite of donations being considerably less than in prior years, the annual United Aid auction still exceeded last year’s totals by a narrow margin.
“The Sweet Shop, the Bikers v. Bankers, and the Phone A Friend campaigns are what saved us this year,” said Judy Nicholson, executive director of the United Way of Laurel County.
Nicholson said the pledges and cash already brought in helped the annual auction to raise $28,000.
“That was up about a thousand from last year,” she said. “But I was sweating!”
Nicholson said although there were some high dollar items this year, the number of items for bid was approximately 200 less than in years past. In fact, the number of products donated this year was so low that the auction ended on Friday night.
“We didn’t even open up on Saturday,” Nicholson added. “We ran out of items and the volunteers were so tired that we just stayed an hour later on Friday and didn’t open at all on Saturday morning.”
Although Nicholson said she was worried about this year’s fundraising, she added that the ‘extra’ features were what brought the auction to its current monetary level.
“The Bikers v. Bankers was big this year and a lot of fun,” she added. “Ward (Stokes, from Cumberland Valley National Bank for the Bankers team) was ahead for most of the week because Cumberland Valley donated $1,000.”
However, some volunteers for the Phone a Friend got on board and raised $2,100 against the Bankers’ initial $1,000 donation and an additional $500 donation came in later, giving the Bikers the edge they needed to put the Banker (Stokes) in leather chaps, gloves, boots and bandana on Monday.
The challenge pitted the bankers against the bikers, with the deal that the loser had to dress like the winner’s theme the Monday after the auction ended.
“Ward came through, dressed like a biker all day Monday,” Nicholson said.
The live broadcast hit a snag on opening night when the sound went out and viewers on local cable channels were not able to hear the auctioneers. After some adjustments, the technical problems were resolved and the auction proceeded without further problems.
The United Aid auction presented a new name this year, going back to its original name rather than be represented under the United Way umbrella in the past. Nicholson said the name change was made so that all money raised could be distributed to local organizations rather than percentages being held in the United Way organization and distributed elsewhere.
Other changes may be in the works for next year’s auction, Nicholson said, that will offer more excitement and competition for viewers and bidders.
“With the economy like it is, it’s understandable that people and businesses don’t have it to give, so we will just have to keep doing other things to bring in money. We want people to understand that the money raised here stays here and helps other local organizations.
The United Way provides monetary support to non-profit groups such as the Girl Scouts, the Optimist Club, both North and South Laurel Little League programs. The United Way is also the overseer of the summer feeding program which provides lunches to children during the summer months as well as serving many childcare centers and churches during Vacation Bible School.
Overall, Nicholson said she was pleased with the outcome of this year’s auction, and praised those who willingly donate their time, effort, and material goods to assist with the fundraising event.
“We have people who have been so loyal to us over the years and, every year, they donate. I think some of them have been donating since this auction began,” Nicholson said. “I cannot say how much I appreciate their loyalty and everyone else’s dedication.”