Written by Janice Beetle and published by Laconia Daily Sun
When children come to buy a bike or a toy for which they have saved their own money.
When men and women come with an item to donate that might be valued at under a few dollars, and they say, “This is all I have. Can you use it?”
When the many volunteers at the Greater Lakes Region Children’s Auction laugh out loud together.
Those are the moments that keep Debbie Frawley Drake coming back for the entire week of our Auction, year after year. “It’s what I love to see,” Debbie says. “It shows how connected we all are.”
Debbie is one of roughly 50 volunteers who take a week off from their jobs—or their busy lives—to help us make the Children’s Auction run smoothly. She is a longtime Children’s Auction Champion, and we appreciate her dedication and support.
Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Debbie would listen to the Auction on the radio each year to hear what was happening and place a few bids. Busy with her family business and the mother of two young children, she had little free time. Volunteering was out of the question.
“I didn’t have the extra time to offer at the Auction, but I certainly tuned in on the radio and would bid on items for Christmas presents,” she recalls. “But after the Children’s Auction moved from its small office space on Main Street and eventually to the Lake Opechee Inn and Spa, auctioneer Doris Makley asked me to help for a few hours in the evenings.”
Debbie notified winning bidders with a friendly phone call. Later, she manned the item pick-up and payment desk. She also learned to run the phone bank and eventually became a greeter.
“Some of the people who come by to drop things off, I might only see once or twice a year,” Debbie notes. “Sometimes I’d meet a child who worked all year to save their pennies to buy a bicycle, and I’d introduce them to Ed Darling—who looks like Santa Claus—and he’d take that child on the air. Those stories are so important to share with the community.”
After Debbie’s children went to college, and she sold her business in 2009, it was easier to commit a full week of her time to volunteer. Now she works the front of the house with the action happening somewhere behind her, out of view.
She plans staffing for the greeting area where items are accepted, directs volunteers and visitors to the right people, answers lots of questions, and helps with crowd control when auction headquarters swells with children and families waiting to perform an opening number or to get an autograph signed by a New England sports legend.
“It’s all about giving,” Debbie says. “The Children’s Auction puts you in the giving spirit at Christmastime, and you get to work with such wonderful people to make it happen. It’s amazing what a small community can do when people pull together. It’s all about love.”
Debbie is active with the Laconia Historical & Museum Society, the Laconia Multicultural Festival, and the Holy Trinity Endowment Trust. She was involved with the Belknap Economic Development Council for many years. She also volunteers with nonprofits that benefit from the Auction, such as Hands Across the Table.
“The money goes in so many directions,” says Debbie, reflecting on the overwhelming success of the event now.
Debbie enjoys that the Auction has become somewhat of a spectator sport, drawing a crowd of 20 or 30 each day—people who watch or place bids. “People like to be a part of it,” she says. “It’s fun for them to sit and watch all the cameras and action on set.”
Debbie likes that students from the Huot Technical Center get to try their hand behind the video equipment. “So many people are learning and having good experiences that week as a result of the Auction. There’s a lot of excitement,” she says. “It shows how joyful it can be, helping people.”