A Benefit with Very Real Benefits

The Bi-Annual St. Mary Auction supports the Spiritual and Academic Instruction of St. Mary School Students

The St. Mary Benefit Dinner Auction began humbly enough. The first program was produced in Jackie Hopper’s living room on a typewriter in 1986. Nancy Sturgis, chair of the first auction, recalls, “I remember saying to the committee ‘If we can just get 10 people to donate $100, we’ll be on our way.’”Lori Meredith

The bi-annual auction, that benefits and supplements the St. Mary School’s operating budget, has been in constant production ever since. Considered by many to be the premier event that kicks off the Christmas season in Paducah, the first year exceeded Nancy and Jackie’s expectations. “We were hoping to raise $10,000 back then,” reminisces Nancy. “And we hit $17,000; the next year we hoped for $20,000 and raised $27,000.” And it’s been growing ever since.Jackie Hopper

On a hot July morning, almost 31 years after that first auction was held, four organizers key to this signature event, gather at St. Mary High School: Nancy Sturgis, Heather Waltmon, Melanie Patel, and Lori Meredith, Leadership Committee Members since 2011, and Jackie Hopper, who volunteered that first year and was hired full time in the development office in 1987. The enthusiasm is palpable as they discuss memorable auction items, noodle on those that might be included in this year’s event, and share in the camaraderie that only those who toil in the trenches of non-profit fundraising can possibly understand. “We never quit thinking about the auction,” says Jackie. “We generally start in January and then we have procurement kickoff about March or April.”Nancy Sturgis

The event takes place over two days with a Preview Party on Friday night that is open to the community. The theme is different every year, says Melanie. “But it’s always Christmas-based; we’ll have one hundred decorated Christmas trees on display!”

Heather Waltmon“There really is something for everyone,” says Melanie. Some items go for as little as $10 and run all the way up to what has been the most sought-after package: golf for two at Augusta National. Some favorite auction items from years past have included murder mystery dinners, a five-story dollhouse, sports memora- bilia, unique vacations, exquisite jewelry, and Derby tickets to name a few. The last four auctions have each earned more than $250,000 for St. Mary Schools with their biggest year in excess of $350,000.

“If it weren’t for the pioneers, Nancy and her committee members, we wouldn’t be where we are today,” Lori says. “They gave us an absolutely fantastic foundation to build on.”