From antique furniture and unique home décor, to war memorabilia and paintings by famous artists, there’s a wide variety of treasures waiting to be discovered each month in our Cornelius Habitat ReStore’s silent auctions. It’s all made possible by hardworking volunteers Sandy Hartwell, Wanda McManaway, Mary Christenbury and Lynne Justus.
After 20 years of running these silent auctions, our ReStore volunteers have perfected a system to get the job done. Volunteers who sort donations know to watch for and set aside some special treasures to be considered for the auction. ReStore truck drivers also flag donated items for potential inclusion in the auction.
“They’re always eager to find items for us, and happy when they do,” Wanda said.
Wanda also volunteers with hospice and worked as a banker for 40 years before joining the ReStore. While volunteering through her former employer, Wanda realized she loved handling unique and unusual items. She wanted to keep giving back to her community once she retired, which brought her to the ReStore to help run silent auctions.
Volunteers take care to organize the auction in a visibly appealing way. Organization of items is also determined by size, type and theme. Volunteers align most of the furniture in the middle of the auction area and house small items in glass cabinets around the perimeter.
“We also group items by subject matter,” Sandy said, such as musical instruments, nautical items, kitchen ware and many other themes.
Sandy, a ReStore volunteer since 2006, was the former CEO of a family company in Mississippi. She began shopping at our ReStore when she moved to the area.
“It made sense for me to volunteer,” she said.
The minimum bid for auction items is only $1, so many items sell for less than their true value. Occasionally, though, some items spark real competition.
“A print by [famous artist] George Rodrigue sold for around $800,” Sandy said.
“Recently, a watercolor sold for over $500 as well,” Mary said.
Mary is a retired IT manager who also used to volunteer at the Carolina Raptor Center. Aside from helping with the silent auctions, Mary’s main task is maintaining the rare books section of the ReStore.
“[At the Raptor Center] I wasn’t helping my fellow man as much as I am now,” Mary said. “I really appreciate that Habitat is so mission-focused and people-focused.”
Following the financial burden of college, she turned to the ReStore for her needs.
“I began volunteering because I wanted to give back after what [the ReStore] had given me,” Mary said.
Auctions run for two weeks, with a week for teardown and setup between. As soon as one auction opens, preparation for the next one begins.
“The entirety of the three weeks prior to the next auction is spent preparing for that auction,” Sandy said.
To learn how it all began, look to Lynne. She’s the volunteer who has been handling the silent auctions the longest of all.
A former public welfare caseworker and substitute teacher, among other roles, Lynne began running the auctions when her close friend Jean Brown—who helped launch the auctions--recruited her nearly two decades ago. Running the auctions has always been hard work.
“When I joined the silent auctions, the two of us were listing 40–50 items, handwriting the bid sheets and ending auctions at 2 p.m. —and putting together the next auction the same day,” Lynne said. “We now list as many as 150 items and have three to four people working to put it together.”
Lynne was very close with Jean; they shared a wonderful friendship.
“She was a great friend, a strong tennis partner, a boating buddy and just fun to be with,” Lynne said.
Prior to volunteering at the ReStore, Lynne also worked on Habitat build sites. Volunteering for Our Towns Habitat, no matter the task, is always rewarding, she said.
“I have always volunteered, but Habitat really allows us to see what our work is accomplishing,” Lynne said. “That is satisfying.”
Thanks to the efforts of Jean, Lynne, Sandy, Wanda and Mary, our ReStore’s silent auctions are a pleasure to explore. Our current auction ends on July 5, and the following begins July 12. Stop by to take a look at what treasures are up for grabs!
About The Author: Madison Seals is a rising sophomore at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she is majoring in Editing and Graphic Design. She has been a volunteer with Our Towns Habitat for Humanity from a young age, supporting the organization through fundraising efforts before she was even old enough to volunteer on a build site.