It’s a milestone anniversary for the Melba Community Auction, and board members have something special planned to mark the occasion.
The annual Melba Community Auction is having its 70th anniversary starting 10 a.m. Jan. 19 in the Melba High School gym. Admission is free. Board members plan to recognize everyone who has contributed to the auction each decade. Maybe at least one person has been with the auction for each of its 70 years.
“One of the cool things is we’ve had so many people involved for so many years,” said Heather Packer, a Melba Community Auction board member.
In 1949, resident Ora D. Stokes helped start the Melba Community Auction to help cover medical costs for people with polio. Now, money raised through the auction continues to help residents with medical bills or other financial hardships, such as funeral expenses or unaffordable power bills.
“That’s the whole reason this was set up … to help people and take care of people,” Packer said. “That’s not just Melba; I think that’s Idaho. We’re small-town people.”
Last year, and for several years before that, the auction raised about $50,000. Money raised also aids local organizations such as Melba Little League insurance, school clubs like FFA, the Melba Valley Senior Center and the Melba High School senior class. Contributions are also made outside the city, such as to Ronald McDonald House, Mercy Hospice and Life Flight.
Packer said there is no goal to surpass $50,000, because the board just wants to raise as much money as possible to help the community.
Every year, local residents donate handmade items such as quilts, birdhouses and cakes and pies to be auctioned or sold.
FFA students help set up, move sold items and clean up throughout the event. Other students make candy to sell.
Nearby organizations such as automotive and seed companies donate items, as well.
“We’re really blessed that way,” Packer said.
Featured attractions at the auction include a gun raffle, homemade “must-try” turkey noodle soup, the “famous” $1 raffle and bags of beans bidding, which is one of Packer’s favorite things.
The story goes that every year, a $100 bill was hidden in one of the bags of beans. Now, each bag is numbered, and at the end of the bidding, the winning number is revealed by opening an envelope.
Packer describes the bidding as chaotic, with people yelling out bids, children hurrying the bags to the bidders, the clerks taking down bids as fast as they can. But, Packer added, it’s fun.
Packer’s other favorite thing about the auction is when someone buys a cake, then donates it back to be sold again. Some cakes go for around $100 when people buy it then donate it back.
“I just love the generosity of people when they do that,” Packer said.