Civic Club Auction Helps Fund Club Philanthropies…And It’s FUN!

Lots of pictures at the bottom of the article, and video coming soon!

Last Saturday, April 9th, I had the rare privilege of attending the annual Civic Club Auction Luncheon.  I say rare, because I was one of only three people of the male persuasion in a room of nearly three hundred people, and the other two were working the event as bartenders.  While women have the opportunity to attend this event every year, it is a rare occasion when a man attends, and I thank Phyllis Chapman who invited me to attend as her guest.  I walked away from this auction very impressed by the Club and its members, and the fun, efficient method in which they raised money to help fund their philanthropic endeavors. 

I arrived at La Salle High School a little before noon, and was greeted at the door by Civic Club members who somehow figured out that I was a guest of someone before I even told them.  The walls of the cafetorium had been decorated beach style, reflecting the theme for this year’s event.

Just past the entry tables were a couple tables with half a dozen packages that made up the “opportunity” drawing entries.  Each item had a container in front of it into which those who purchased tickets could place their tickets to enter the drawing for that particular item.  I bought a dozen tickets for $10, and entered three in the drawing for a Tommy Bahama beach package, featuring beach chairs, beach towels and more.  I put another three into the running for a visit to Disneyland’s legendary Club 33, and the remainder went into the container that ultimately had the most participation, a free Kindle, which was eventually won by this year’s Older American of the Year, Pat Alcorn.

Across the way on the same side of the room was another table filled with silent auction items, many of them works of art.  And throughout the luncheon/auction, several members of the Club walked around the hall selling tickets for a drawing to win a money hat, with $250 cash! 

On the opposite wall at two identical stations were tables filled with numerous salads, honey baked ham, and poached salmon.  Next to these tables were other tables stacked with homemade cupcakes for dessert.  Each member signed up to bring one food item, either salads, breads, meats, or dessert. Lunch is included in the $25 ticket price, as are the wine bar and coffee/punch table.  There were all types of salads, including Caesar, green, fruit, several types of pasta salad, ambrosia, shrimp salad and several others.  I did not walk away hungry!

The buffet was handled in a very orderly fashion, with tables from each side of the room being dismissed to the buffet a few at a time to reduce time spent standing in line.  But it was after lunch that the real fun began.

Auctioneer Anita Thompson, who has performed that duty since “sometime in the 80s, I think,” explained the procedure for the “Chinese Auction” to the women (and me).  At each seat was a ping pong ball and a brightly colored tropical fish “bidding paddle.”  Both items had the same number written on them.  Bidders were to bring their ping pong ball to the auction table and place it in the spinning drum, and retain their paddles.  On each table were two plastic buckets.  When Ms. Thompson had described for the ladies what an auction item consisted of and what the approximate value of the item was, she would then designate a bid price.  Anyone who wanted to bid on that item was then to place the bid amount in the plastic jar, and hold up their paddle to signify their participation in the bidding for that particular item. 

Once all the bids were placed, a ball was pulled from the drum, and the number was called out to the crowd.  If the person with the paddle that matched the ball number was participating in that item’s bidding, they won the item.  If not, they let the auctioneer know that the number was a “no-bid” number, and another ball was pulled and that number was then called out to the crowd, the process repeating until a winner was found for the item.  After each item, the balls were returned to the drum for the remaining items.

The part that was amazing to me was that the bid amount for most of the items was either fifty or seventy-five cents!  There were a couple that were a dollar, and even one item that was $1.50, but the majority of the items could be had for a bid of less than a dollar, even though the values were generally in excess of one hundred dollars each!  The beauty of it is, that because the bids were so low, nearly everyone could participate in nearly every auction, and because nearly everyone had a stake in every auction, the room was buzzing with excitement.  But they could do so without having to spend a lot of money, even if they won.  Because most of the people participated in the bidding for each auction item, the Civic Club still reaped a generous financial reward – if 2/3 of the 300 people bid on a $.75 cent item, the Civic Club made $150 on that item – because all of the auction items are donated. 

My favorite part of the auction was when auctioneer Thompson announced the second (of two) auction items that were “freebies,” no bid required.  After waiting nearly an hour, I finally heard her call number 204!  So if you see me getting a lube, oil and filter at Moe’s Automotive, or a car wash at Faschings Car Wash, or attending an event at the John Anson Ford Theater, you’ll know that I have the Civic Club to thank for it.

All Civic Club members are responsible for finding auction items, and this year, there were 27 Sierra Madre businesses and 22 out of town businesses that contributed items.  The committee that puts on the auction decides what goes where – if it’s an opportunity item, a silent auction item, or a Chinese auction item.  This year, Halcyon Koerber and Taylor Nestlerode were in charge of the auction items.  It takes weeks and weeks to assemble, and sometimes re-assemble, all the donations into the pretty baskets auctioned off at the luncheon.  Nearly $10,000 in auction items were donated, but because the Civic Club has come up with such a wonderful auction model, those donations generated nearly $20,000 in revenue for the Club!

Jean Coleman and Karma Bell were co-chairs of the event, with twenty-three women volunteering (of the nearly 100 active Civic Club members) to take on a given part of the luncheon, from taking charge in the kitchen, to creating centerpieces, or blowing up balloons.  Each Club member is responsible for working a shift the day of the luncheon, as well.  Students from LaSalle and Alverno assist to keep the event moving along, earning service hours for school. All this is done to help keep expenses down so the Club can raise as much money for its philanthropies as possible.  Last year the Club gave away nearly $20,000, funding educational awards, helping to fund the Senior Lunch Program, Concerts in the Park, Huck Finn Day, Halloween Window Painting, the Library,  Little League, Girls Softball and much more.