MORRIS – The 31st year of the Operation St. Nick Radio Auction proved to not only be successful, but record breaking.
At 10 minutes before 8 a.m. Sunday, the day of the radio auction on WCSJ stations, the phone was already ringing off the hook, said Joe Schmitz, St. Nick founder and president. The auction was from 8 a.m. to noon.
“Right off the bat, there was a sense a special day was going to happen,” he said.
It was special because in four hours the organization raised $134,640. The previous record for the annual auction was $121,00 from the 25th anniversary year. Since that year, the average raised has been between $100,000 and $110,000.
“By 8:30 a.m., we had 70-some items sold and that has never happened before,” Schmitz said.
Operation St. Nick is a nonprofit organization that works to help Grundy County families in need throughout the year with different programs, including for Christmas, back to school and veterans programs. One of the newest is a literacy program where it buys new books for local school libraries.
“It’s moving how much money the generous people of Grundy County give to help their less fortunate friends and neighbors,” Schmitz said.
The event had more than 16 auction items that people were able to call in and bid on and hundreds of more items ranging from $100 to $1,000 that people could buy.
The money raised goes toward all of the organization’s programs, including buying toys and clothes for families Christmas morning. This year, between 55 and 60 families are being helped through the Christmas program.
The auction item that raised the most money – $6,000 – was the 1934 Ford Roadster Go-Kart donated by Morris Cruise Night members. The “radical rod” go-kart was custom built.
“Being the biggest one doesn’t always matter, it’s just nice to be able to support groups like that,” said Herb Wyeth of Morris Cruise Night. “A lot of kids are helped and that’s what Morris Cruise Night committee is all about.”
Morris Cruise Night also donated a 1952 “Spin Top” Coke machine, which raised $2,600 for the cause.
“We raised $24,675 by 9 a.m., one hour into the auction,” Schmitz said. “That’s when we had the sense good things were happening.”
The second-highest item was the whole house generator from Baker Electric in Morris, which raised $2,850.
In addition to raising the most money, Schmitz said this auction also sold the most items, but he did not know the specific amount Monday. Of all the items, 30 of them were signed prints of a painting of Joe Corsello and St. Nick’s Santa who retired last year.
Another moving moment for Schmitz was when St. Nick received an anonymous donation of $20,000 again this year, he said. The donation first came on St. Nick’s 25th anniversary, and has continued every year since, but Schmitz said he never assumes it will.
“About 10 minutes to 12 p.m., it came in,” he said. “It put us over the top when that happened.”
In addition to this anonymous donor, numerous other companies and individuals made straight donations during the auction.