While the Merchants’ Toy N Joy Auction isn’t held in-person this year, organizers said the event is still raising money for a good cause and auctioning off items to the community.
The goal is to raise $20,000 to distribute toys and holiday food baskets to families in the Columbia River Fire and Rescue’s service districts. The toys and food are distributed in December and in 2019 reached approximately 1,000 people.
The annual event has raised over $600,000 in the last 37 years, according to Mindy Sass, president of the auction. Sass has been involved with the program for over 20 years and her daughter Susannah Sass has followed her lead and joined her in organizing the event.
There are a variety of items being auctioned, including gift cards, a Baby Yoda doll, a COVID care basket, two decorated Christmas trees, diamond earrings and more.
A popular item this year is the New Year’s Eve At Home basket, Susannah Sass said. A bidding war broke out and the basket went for over $100 more than its valued price. Auction organizers reached out to the second-highest bidder and offered to put together a second basket for the winning price, she said. The basket included diamond earrings, champagne, a gift certificate to Plymouth Pub and a necklace.
Other popular items this year include home improvement items like gravel and hardware store gift cards, Susannah Sass said.
“Outdoor-focused items that you can do at home are doing really well,” Susannah Sass said.
The raffles prove to be popular again this year, she said. Most raffle tickets are affordable at $5, but for $20 people can be entered to win $1,000.
“We really want to sell out of those,” she said. The frenzy of bidding in-person is missing this year, but Susannah Sass said hosting the auction online has opened up the event to more people than might have gone to the in-person event.
Mystery wine bags can be purchased for $20 and contain one bottle of wine and possibly gift cards and other items.
For people who are tight on extra funds this year, Susannah Sass said they can still support the cause by spreading the word.
“The biggest thing people can do that costs nothing is to go on our Facebook page and share it,” she said.
Bidding for the online auction goes until 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 4. Drawings for raffles will be at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 5, and winners can pick up their prizes from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday at Sunshine Pizza.
The funds support a toy program from the fire and rescue district, the St. Helens Kiwanis Holiday Hope program and the Columbia Pacific Food Bank.
For Mindy Sass, seeing the funds brighten the holiday season for people in the community is the best part.
“We have fun watching it be successful,” she said. “We like to make sure that kids get Christmas.”
Businesses can donate items to be auctioned, and anyone is welcome to make a cash donation.
The auction website is at sthelenssportsbooster.schoolauction.net/tnjauction2020/homepages/show