After eating a belly full of fish and chips at the River Edge on Saturday, people gathered around auctioneer D.K. Mitchell to begin the Helping Hands Auction. Mitchell along with several helpers including Kristi Thistle, showed gifts baskets filled with booze, treats, art, trips, clothes, power tools and pretty much anything else a person could think of for the annual event, which started at noon on Dec. 2.
For over 20 years community members have come together to raise funds for Mineral County for the holidays. With funds raised, members buy Christmas gifts and food for local children and their families.
The auction generally brings in $5,000 to $7,000 between over 120 items, 50/50 tickets, plus the dinner. Ray Hagle, who owns the restaurant, said his mother Dottie, was one of the original members. He loves to see the community come out and support the event he said in a previous interview, and often sees the same faces year after year.
The auction began at the Sportsman Bar in Alberton one night when a hat was passed around. Enough money was raised to go to the Dollar Store in Missoula and buy Christmas gifts for needy children. Though the concept is the same, the hat has gotten a lot bigger and the gifts now expand beyond the Dollar Store.
In a few weeks members will gather at the Alberton Community Center and flood the tables with food and gifts.Families comes in from all over the county to gather up a nice meal for the holidays with food left over to fill the pantry for a couple of months. Plus, brightly wrapped packages are ready to be put under the tree. Parents put in gift requests earlier in the season for their children. For some, itís the only gifts they will receive.
For the members of Helping Hands, seeing the grateful look on the parents face as treasures are carried away, is their special gift for the holidays.