An on-line auction was held from the hall of St. John’s Church, Ida on the evening of Friday, April 14. As reported in the April edition of the Millbrook Times, the paintings are the work of local artist, Murray Hofstetter, a retired art teacher who taught at McLaughlin Collegiate in Oshawa. In addition, there were a few paintings by other artists that Murray had acquired. These paintings had been given by Murray to a friend, June Moncrief. She donated them to St. John’s where Murray and his wife, Bronwen, worshipped. In its turn the congregation saw the paintings as an opportunity to raise money for a good cause. Members Andy and Maureen Harjula work in Belize on an annual basis with a rural community where they assist with agricultural and educational initiatives. Consequently, it was decided that money raised from the sale of the paintings would be used to help finance the lunch program at St. Matthew’s Primary School and the idea of an on-line auction was born.
Paintings could be viewed on-line for two weeks and on the final day of the auction, in person in the church hall. Consequently, a few people were on hand as the soft close of the auction began at 8 pm. Auctioneer, Jason Macintosh, and his assistant, Colleen, were on hand to keep people informed as to how the bidding was progressing. By 7 o’clock there had been little action. The committee members, not having had any experience with on-line auctions, were becoming concerned. Jason told them not to worry. “Bidding will pick up”, he assured them. It did. As 8:00 pm approached, bidding on some paintings began to move at a frantic pace. To add to the excitement some people discovered they were bidding against each other! They are still friends. Most of the works were purchased by people living in our area. However, one went to a former student of Murray’s in Oshawa, another to a bidder in Toronto and a third to one in Prince Edward Island. When the auction finished $3200 had been raised for the lunch program at St. Matthew’s School.
Andy points out that at a school in a city in Belize, there will be many bicycles lined up along its walls. At St. Matthew’s there are only a few. This school serves a community dependent upon seasonal agricultural employment: no fruit – no work. In Belize, the government finances the construction of the school and pays the teachers’ salaries. Everything else, from chalk to toilet paper, has to be paid for by the students’ families. In affluent areas this approach to education can work. In a region of poverty there is little “extra” money to be had. Supporting the lunch program at this primary school will benefit many young children. All the money raised by the auction will be used to buy rice, peas, beans and chicken.
Thanks to everyone who worked to make this auction a success; Murray and the other artists; June, who donated the paintings, the auctioneers, Jason and Colleen; the organizing committee and all those who bid and bought.
By Ted Hodkinson