The Huntsville Kiwanis Club’s Christmas Shopping With A Kid will kick off Thursday, then the civic group will hold its annual fundraising auction on Saturday at 1 p.m., inside Carroll Electric on Highway 412B.
The auction raises money so that children can go shopping at the Walmart Supercenter with Kiwanis Club members and other volunteers from the community.
The auction has been in recent years held in the Walmart parking lot. Last year, 140 volunteers – from law enforcement personnel, to city employees to business and civic representatives – helped the children shop.
Last year’s auction raised about $4,800, club member Amy Olic said. In 2017, the auction raised more than $7,000.
“It just gets so cold,” Olic said as to why the auction is being held indoors this year. “When you get out there at 8 in the morning to set up and the auction doesn’t start until 1, then you’re there until 2 or 2:30 or 3, that’s a long time in that wind, or sleet, snow.
“We’re hoping it’ll increase attendance.”
The Kiwanis last year took 197 school children shopping from Huntsville, Kingston and St. Paul. Each child received $100 for shopping. They get to pick out gifts for themselves and for others in their family.
Olic said that people each year donate a variety of items to the auction, with proceeds going to the shopping program.
“We’re very blessed because we have so many private donations. People who just come and give us money, whether it’s literally 10 bucks or a thousand dollars. We’ve got a very generous community. We’re very thankful,” Olic said.
She said there really isn’t a financial goal for the auction.
“We never put an estimate or a guesstimate or a hope on it. Whatever it does it does and we’ll hit what’s pitched,” she said.
Olic said the Kiwanis also receive help from Huntsville businesses.
“The banks in general are great. Several business owners, and we have several people in our community that just always come forward and help,” she said.
“And, all the people who bring us items. A load of wood or a load of rock or propane or physical items, whether it’s craft items, handmade items, baked goods. All of those things add up to create what folks are bidding on and buying,” she said.
“Hopefully this year we’ll have a little better attendance since it will be inside and it’ll be a little more comfortable.”
Olic said she and Derek Witt, another Kiwanis member, have learned their lesson about people donating items for the auction.
“People are known to wait until the very last minute to show up with items,” she said. “Richard Gillham taught Derek and I to not freak out, not get upset, just wait, be patient, people will show up.”
The Kiwanis Club works with area school counselors, who determine which children in need should go on the shopping trip.
“We work with the counselors, all of them, in all the schools, directly, starting at the beginning of the school year,” Olic said.
“We allow them to help us dictate how many [students] need to go. If we’ve got a kid who has a need, we want to help them. We don’t really ever give them a cap or a limit. Because if we were to say 200 kids and there was 202 that needed to go, we’re not doing that.”
The Kiwanis Club raised money this spring for the shopping program with a lawn mower package giveaway. The club also had a poker run.
“We do multiple fundraisers through the year. Some of them are a little smaller, some of them are a little bigger, to raise money for the event,” Olic said.
Students from Kingston will shop at 9 a.m. on Thursday. St. Paul students will go shopping at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 10. On Dec. 11, Huntsville Middle School students will shop at 9 a.m., with Huntsville High School students going at 10 a.m.
The final day of shopping will be Friday, Dec. 13. Watson Primary students will shop at 8:30 a.m., followed at 9 a.m. by the Intermediate School.
Olic said there is a need for adult volunteers to help with the shopping, especially when Kingston and St. Paul students will be at Walmart. If interested in helping, just arrive ahead of time and check in with any Kiwanis Club member.