Ok, let’s face it, when it comes to the Rotary Auction & Rummage Sale, the first question on most people’s minds is not “what did you buy?”, but rather, “how much did they make?”
The Bainbridge Island Rotary Club, which has been staging the iconic annual swap meet since the 1960s, keeps that sort information close to the vest until it’s volunteer picnic, when all is revealed. Club members and scores of volunteers packed into the covered shelter at Battle Point Park on Sunday July 16, ate some fine Mexican food, listened to the dulcet tones of Ranger and the Re-arrangers and waited for the number to be announced.
Rosemary Shaw, the 2022 Auction Chair, played the role of Master of Ceremonies and thanked volunteers, of which there were at least 400 new ones this year, gave a nod to her fellow Rotarians, acknowledged the band, and gave a big shout out to Miguelitos Cocina Mexicana, the restaurant that provided the yummy lunch, before getting down to the main attraction: the moolah!
The air was thick with anticipation as Shaw asked for at least 10 volunteers to step forward to the makeshift podium. When they were assembled, they were lined up next to each other and each were given an 8 x 10 manila envelope. A number of spectators grabbed for their cell phone and aimed their “cameras” at the 10 unsuspecting volunteers, who might have been asking, “what did I get into here?” After some instructions, a few showed the contents of their envelopes: one was a comma, a few others included a period followed by two 6’s. Then a Rotarian, who’s microphone didn’t quite work at first, excitedly recited the club’s previous two top revenue generating years: $605,000 in 2019 and a whopping $624,000 in 2018.
Would this year’s auction – the first one held in the past three years as we endured the Pandemic – break the record? Everyone held their breath and from left to right, the assembled line-up turned their envelopes around to reveal first, a dollar sign, followed by many numbers: $729,386.66. Wow, a record haul brought in during just a six hour affair.
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 2, 2022 – some 7,000-8,000 people stream through Woodward Middle School and buy treasurers that sometimes end up back at the Rotary Auction the following year. The money is used to support local non-profits and causes and well as the Rotary Club’s international programs.
“We can’t thank our volunteers enough for their time, talent and generosity,” said Shaw. “You’re the ones that make it happen.” One lucky volunteer came away with a $70 pot for coming closest to guessing this year’s magic number. Two others won passes to get a message.
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