LACONIA — There are still more questions than answers for the 39th Greater Lakes Region Children’s Auction, which will begin about three months from now. Perhaps the biggest one is: what will the coronavirus pandemic look like in December?
What's not in question is whether the event will take place. Board chair Jaimie Sousa’s answer is emphatic: “We’ve had numerous meetings. We’re super excited. It definitely is happening.”
In recent years, the auction has operated with a small army of volunteers who work together like a well-trained squadron: some work on managing the cache of donated items to be auctioned; others help supporters who show up to collect their items; there are the on-air personalities who entertain viewers and listeners and who hype the items up for sale; and there are teams of volunteers who cycle through the site to operate phone banks.
The scene pops up every December in some donated space large enough to accommodate all of that commotion. Usually it’s been in function rooms and last year it was in a vacant storefront at the Belknap Mall.
Sousa wasn’t able to say where they’ll be setting up this year. Wherever it is, it won’t need as many people as in the past, she said.
“We’re looking at a limited-staff version of the auction,” she said. “A lot is going on behind the scenes to try and figure out how we can make it safe for everyone.”
What Sousa and the rest of the auction board are trying to determine is how much of those face-to-face interactions can happen remotely. One option they’re looking into is having the auction items at a separate location from the broadcast studio. This would allow organizers to keep different groups of volunteers from mixing, thereby limiting any possible spread of infection. By solving that problem, though, they would create another.
Usually, with the auction items in the same space as the studio, the volunteers can group items together on the fly to be put up on the auction block. If those items are stored remotely, they would have to take photographs or videos of each item ahead of time. That would take some time, considering the hundreds of items the auction collects and sells to benefit local nonprofit organizations.
“That’s part of why we’re doing the item drive this weekend," Sousa said. "We’ll need to get items catalogued earlier than before.”
The Children’s Auction is partnering with Meredith Village Savings Bank and MI-BOX Moving and Mobile Storage for a three-day item drive they hope will give them a head start on this year’s auction. From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Friday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday, volunteers will be at the MVSB branch in Gilford, along with a MI-BOX storage unit to collect all of the donations. Donors are asked to drive to the bank, fill out a simple form and give their donation to an auction volunteer.
Donated items should be new, unused and unwrapped. Items that typically fetch the highest bids are gift cards, electronics, tools, toys, sporting goods and household items.
With more people likely spending their daytime hours at home, Sousa said that this year’s auction might be yet another year when they break fundraising records. Last year’s auction brought in $600,032, which was given out to local organizations that benefit children.
Sousa anticipated that all of those organizations will have even greater need this year. That’s why she said, “It’s not an option for us to cancel.”
The 39th Greater Lakes Region Children’s Auction, presented by Hannaford Supermarkets, will take place this year Dec. 8-11, and will be broadcast live on 104.9 The Hawk, Lakes 101.5 Radio, on Atlantic Broadband Channel 12, LRPA Channel 25
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