One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. In many ways, that old adage applies to Bainbridge Island’s annual Rotary Auction and Rummage Sale. But one thing that can’t be denied is the amount of money this Mother of All Fundraisers makes over just a mere six hour period!
The auction, more of a humongous garage sale than anything resembling something you might witness at Sotheby’s in Manhattan, just completed its 63rd year, and hundreds of volunteers and Rotarians cheered at a celebratory picnic last Sunday afternoon when the final tally was announced.
A dozen or so Rotarians, along with a handful of fanatical volunteers stood up in front of the assembled masses and held up yellow placards. When instructed to do so, they each turned over their signs to reveal a dollar sign, numbers commas, or a period.
A hush went over the crowd as they took in the unveiling, and not long after there were shouts, clapping and whistling as everyone began to figure out the number in front of them: $824,365.33. Wow. It was another record haul for the Rotary Club, beating last year’s record total of nearly $730,000 by almost $100,000.
Prior to the Covid-19 Pandemic, which put the event into near mothball status for two years, the club’s previous two top revenue generating years were $605,000 in 2019 and a then whopping $624,000 in 2018. The final number is a gross revenue figure and doesn’t include the cost of putting on this signature island event.
Most islanders know, or soon find out after moving here, that the auction is a truly unique event, with year-long preparation, followed by a week or so of donation collection and sorting, as some 150,000 items (mostly from Bainbridge Islanders) are distributed among some 36 departments.
On the big day – this year July 8, 2023 – some 7,000 to 8,000 people streamed through Woodward Middle School and bought treasurers that sometimes end up back at the Rotary Auction the following year. The money is used to support local non-profits, and local causes as well as the Rotary Club’s international programs.
Carol Reitz, this year’s auction chair, shared some pretty amazing statistics with the crowd on hand Sunday. There were 2200 volunteers signed up to work during the donation and sale portions of the event. “There were new volunteers who showed up every single day and that is a testament to what a worthwhile (opportunity) is.”
Other interesting tidbits:
— The Rotary served up 6,000 meals over the 16 days the auction took place, from beginning to end;
— The single largest transaction was an $80,000 purchase in the Small Appliances department. While people oohed and aahed at the sizable number, Reitz later confessed that the figure was a typo and was not recorded in the final tally;
— The so-called Green Team “reduced the amount of stuff that had to be thrown away,” she said, noting that in 2022, Bainbridge Disposal “crusher trucks” made 19 trips to the dump. This year that figure was whittled down to 14 trips.
— In 2022, some 92 tons of trash were removed from the site, this year that number was reduced to 51 tons of trash.
“We tried a bunch of new things (in 2023),” Reitz added. Some of these approaches included using a drone to help identify critical issues, especially around traffic; partnering with local assistance groups such as Bainbridge Prepares; and making sure the curbside drop off site at Woodward was cleaned every night.
The Rotary also allowed “gleaners” to pick through the leftovers from the auction, beginning at 9 p.m. on the day of. That also helped reduce the waste stream. Finally, the Rotary made a bit more money at the picnic when Reitz and company auctioned a bike for $225.
To learn more about the Rotary Club of Bainbridge Island and the Auction and Rummage Sale, visit: https://www.bainbridgerotaryauction.org/
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