Some people came to shop. Others shopped to give. But for most, the motivation was probably both, combined with the fun of being there.
Winning bidders purchased hundreds of items, from $700 dinner parties to pet treats, at the 11th Annual Silent Auction benefitting the Humane Society of Statesboro & Bulloch County. Their purchases — or tax-deductible donations — provided about $8,800 for the society’s animal rescue and low-cost spay-and-neuter programs. About 155 people attended the June 15 event at Trinity Episcopal Church.
Down a corridor where tables held items that overflowed from the main social hall, Kathy Frey looked at pending bids on gift certificates for salon services and restaurant meals. She and her husband, John, attend the auction every year and usually leave with a purchase, “if not five or six,” she said.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Frey said. “It’s a great event, a great night in Statesboro, and the Humane Society has done a lot of good.”
In the main hall, bidders marked their offers on cards beside items as diverse as fishing tackle and jelly baskets, fondue kits and a Monopoly-like Pound Dogs game. In all, 84 Statesboro area businesses, 11 Savannah businesses and 40 individuals donated items for the auction, said Debbie Kruk, the leading auction organizer and the Humane Society’s treasurer. She provided the $8,800 estimate after deducting expenses, such as advertising, but all the auctioned items were donated.
For a third consecutive year, the mostly silent-style auction included a live-auction interlude. This showcased five items chosen for high value or interest. Jack Orman, who also serves as auctioneer for Trinity Episcopal’s annual auction benefiting Relay for Life, again led the live auction.
Not really an auctioneer by trade, Orman deploys slow patter and dashes of humor instead of a high-speed chant. When an Athens weekend, including two nights in a two-bedroom condo, came up for bids, Orman commented that a few people in Statesboro are still partial to the Georgia Bulldogs as well as the Georgia Southern Eagles.
“I don’t understand why, but hey, some of us have to bid, so, go, Silver Britches!” he said.
Lynda Hamilton donated a fancy party, which she planned to cater and host at her home, for up to 15 people. But when two teams of bidders showed interest, Orman got down on one knee to beg Hamilton to double her offer. She agreed, and both a group of five bidders around Ann Hamilton and the team of Carrie Mitchell and Debbie Gleason bought parties, for $700 each, resulting in $1,400 for the Humane Society.
The auction’s proceeds will cover a little more than one month’s expenses for the two programs it funds. Monthly costs run about $2,500 for the low-cost spay-and-neuter program and about $5,000 for animal rescue, according to Humane Society President Christina Lemon.
The Humane Society does not operate a shelter but cares for rescued animals through a network of foster homes. Currently, about 20 foster families are keeping animals. But the number rises to about 30 households with the fall influx of university students, said Rene Durfee, the society’s cat rescue wrangler and previous overall rescue program coordinator.
“We have anywhere from 40 to 60 animals pretty much all the time,” said current rescue coordinator Carrie Mitchell.
The group is always in need of more foster homes, Mitchell and Durfee said. Summer is kitten season, so right now, the number of cats in foster care, about 40, is especially high.
“All you’ve got to do is give them love and attention,” Durfee said. “The Humane Society actually pays their vet bills and can provide food and litter as needed.”
While bidders were circulating, the wait staff — 12 well-dressed children of society members — hovered at their elbows with trays of hors d’oeuvres. Meanwhile, eight volunteers helped Leslie Sprando in the kitchen. Sprando donates the food and serves as volunteer chef each year. She was president of the Humane Society for several years and led in launching the silent auction a decade ago.
The current organization took shape years ago when the Humane Society, which had focused on animal sterilization programs, merged with an animal rescue group. The rescue effort has made the society much more humane in the eyes of the public, Sprando said, but she thinks spay-and-neuter is still the more important side of the combined strategy.
“Rescuing is the reactive way,” she said. “Proactively, if you spay and neuter, you don’t make animals that nobody wants.”
Spay and neuter
The Humane Society of Statesboro & Bulloch County works with the Spay/Neuter Alliance and Clinic, or SNAC, based in Ridgeland, S.C., to provide low-cost pet birth control in the area. SNAC’s fees range from $50 for male cats to $75 for female dogs, but pet owners say that these are much less than veterinary clinics’ full charges, which are often based on an animal’s weight and can range from about $100 to upwards of $200 for large dogs.
Further, the Humane Society funds a “$20 Fix” voucher program. It provides the service at that deeply discounted price for animal owners who have low incomes or are full-time college students living away from their parents.
Either way, people using the SNAC service must make an appointment. They then bring their animals to Anderson’s General Store early one morning, where the pets are picked up in an air-conditioned van and returned postsurgery the next afternoon.
In the six years of the program’s existence, Bulloch County’s participation has increased from about 65 animals the first year to more than that every month, said Deborah Kosina, the Humane Society’s spay-and-neuter coordinator. This week alone, 25 Bulloch County animals made the round trip to a puppy- or kitten-free future.
Individuals must bring their animals in a hard-sided carrier or crate, but the Humane Society provides these for people who need them.
In publicizing its sterilization effort, the Humane Society notes that the county’s separate animal control program euthanizes about 2,000 animals per year, but this is not meant as a criticism, Kosina said.
“We understand that. It’s not the shelter’s fault,” she said. “I mean, it’s the lack of responsibility in the community from people not taking care of their pets.”
The auction is the Humane Society’s largest single fundraising event each year. However, ReTails, the society’s thrift store at 105 N. College St., serves as a year-round funding source.
The store, open from noon until 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, occupies all of a former home, plus part of one next door. The store is packed with donated items — clothing, furniture, small appliances, curios and relatively few pet items. It also serves as the society’s headquarters and supply center.
Launched in November 2011, ReTails is already out of space, Lemon said. The Humane Society would appreciate ideas for a larger building, especially one that could be discounted or donated, she said.
Even with the store and auction, the society is barely making ends meet, according to its officers. Sometimes the group puts spay-and-neuter voucher applicants on a waiting list until funding catches up.
Lemon expressed thanks to the businesses who donated for the auction and who help year-round.
Veterinarians also help in many ways, she said, countering a recent Soundoff caller who criticized local vets for a lack of support for these efforts.
“That could not be further from the truth,” Lemon said. “The problem is that the overpopulation of pets is beyond anyone’s ability to really be able to deal with it, but the veterinarians have absolutely helped in many, many ways. In fact, our rescue program really couldn’t be done without their help.”