World Hunger Auction History
The World Hunger Auction began in 1984 as a result of the Antioch Church of the Brethren heeding the call of a church committee to vision the possibility of increasing its outreach response to the needs in the world. W. W. Naff, Jr., as quoted in a 1996 church magazine stated, “The idea came up during the height of the Cold War. We wanted to do something proactive for peace in the world. We surveyed the congregation to see what people would be willing to donate. We got many positive responses to the idea”.
Initially, the auction was called the Haiti Project Peace Auction because of the decision to target funds to that country. The name had been chosen because it reflected the belief that addressing the underlying cause of unrest might lead to a more peaceful world. The name also reflected the motto of Heifer International, “Peace Begins When the Hungry are Fed”. As the effort continued to include the greater community, the name was changed in 1992 to Church of the Brethren World Hunger Auction. Following the untimely death of one of the founders, the name was changed again in 1997 to Church of the Brethren World Hunger Auction, W. W. Naff, Jr. Memorial.
The date for the auction has been set for the second Saturday in August.
Through the years, additional churches were invited to participate. In 1985, five joined; and in 1996, the total rose to seven. By 2013 in addition to Antioch, the group had expanded to include Bethany, Bethlehem, Boones Mill, Cedar Bluff, Germantown Brick, Monte Vista, Oak Grove (South), Ninth Street (Roanoke) and Smith Mountain Lake Community Churches of the Brethren.
The first auction included 22 head of cattle, three rabbits, shrubbery, canned and baked goods, produce, crafts, and excavating services. In the following years, the variety continued to increase to include a piano, organ, donkey, ducks, puppies, quilts, crafts, original art work, services, meals, entertainment packages, and used cars in addition to many other things.
Because of the agrarian nature of the community when the auction was started, an emphasis was placed on farm products, and many animals were donated for sale. The progression evolved from heifers to calves and then to processed cattle in the form of packaged beef. Not only was the meat sold to individuals, the decision was made to process animals throughout the year and donate the meat to the Heavenly Manna Food Pantry in Rocky Mount. In 1995, over $1,000 was expended to process 5 cows and 3 hogs. In 1999, over $2,200 was used to process over a dozen beef animals. The value of the donated meat was not included in the tabulation of funds raised by the auction. Because of health regulations, it was necessary to terminate the sale of beef.
In addition to the items that are offered for auction, there are numerous stations where things are available for purchase. These include baked and canned goods, produce, gently used toys that are donated by children, and books. Some of the activities have become a family tradition with a number of generations being involved. A silent auction is used to sell what are called “special services”. Individuals donate meals in their homes, desserts delivered through the year, escorted trips and entertainment packages, firewood, auto detailing, house painting and an untold number of other things.
Food and refreshments are available on auction day. At one point, men from the Summerdean Church in Roanoke prepared a barbeque chicken meal. It was decided that the meal drew a number of bidders away from the sale so the plan was changed to offer a lighter meal. The Germantown Brick Church coordinates concessions which have included hot dogs, hamburgers, barbeque, and ice cream with the particular items varying from year to year. Smith Mountain Lake Church prepares a breakfast of homemade ham and sausage biscuits.
Many individuals had ideas for activities to raise funds which could be added to the auction sales. In the Mustard Seed project, $20 was provided to persons willing to take on the challenge of using that money to fund a venture from which they would donate the proceeds the following year. One of the most successful projects was done a member of the Bethany congregation. When a person took the $20 and encouraged others to participate, the response was excellent. From a bake sale to making craft items for sale, significant funds were raised from the original amount. As is common with many unique initiatives, the project was popular for a number of years but was later discontinued. A group from the Germantown Brick community planted approximately a hundred pounds of potatoes one year and sold them in the produce area on auction day. In another year, the Friendship Sunday School Class from Antioch planted, canned and sold 300 quarts of green beans.
A hunger walk was initiated in 1987. The route is a few tenths more than five miles, and the event has taken place in extreme heat and blowing snow. Though records are not official, it is known that at least one 84 year-old lady completed the entire route. It is believed that she is the oldest person to have walked. Several completed their first “walk” in a stroller.
The idea for a bike ride surfaced in 1990, and in the first number of years, riders traveled from the Antioch community to north on the Blue Ridge Parkway then descending into the town of Buchanan eventually ending at Camp Bethel. Later, the ride was changed to start and end at Antioch. In the process, routes of 5, 10, 25 and 50 miles were made available to participants. On at least one occasion, a 100 mile was held, but it was not continued because very few riders were interested. Both the walk and ride are in rural areas where the hazards are somewhat different than in highly populated areas. There have been a very few incidents in which both riders and walkers have been bitten by dogs, but none were hurt seriously. The Franklin County Sheriff’s Department and local rescue squads often provide support for these events.
Next, the suggestion for a golf tournament was presented. The first one was held at Mariner’s Landing course in 2003. Monte Vista Acres was the site of a community fellowship event for a number of years. It included music groups, food, a magician, a petting zoo, and other family activities.
Other activities that have evolved include church meals, typically being a pancake breakfast or spaghetti lunch following a Sunday worship service. Also, many different types of music programs have become part of the tradition. Included are a winter musical with local groups and occasional concerts by the Antioch Bell Choir. This first winter musical was started as a Mustard Seed project in 1998. Also, Jonathan Emmons, who is well known in the Church of the Brethren community, having served as District and Annual Conference organist numerous times, presents an annual concert to benefit the auction effort. His first concert was in 2006.
The funds collected for hunger projects grew steadily through the first thirty years. The auctions from 1984 through 1987 raised over $10,000 each year; from 1988 through 1990, over $20,000; from 1991 through 1995, over $30,000; from 1996 through 1998, over $40,000; and from 2000 through the thirtieth auction in 2013, the amount ranged from $50,000 to $58,000. In 1999, the total dipped below the trend to about $36,000. From 1984 through 2013, more than $1,150,000 was distributed to hunger related organizations.
An important question that faced the original planners related to how the money that was raised would be put to use to address the hunger question. Some wondered if the church should develop a project that could be funded with the proceeds. Others suggested that it would be better spent if the money was given to existing organizations that had expertise in administering programs. Heifer International (then known as Heifer Project International) was selected as the main entity to which the funds would be given. A project in Monte Cristi, Dominican Republic, was selected to receive significant funding. The budget for that group was about what the auction was raising for the first number of years which made it a good fit for the funds. Other organizations which have received funding include the Church of the Brethren Global Food Crisis Fund, Roanoke Area Ministries, Heavenly Manna, and others in smaller amounts.
Individuals from the various churches visited the Dominican Republic projects in 1987, 1996, and 2001. Those who made the trip included Glenn Kinsel, Sevilla Bower, Darrell Brubaker, Jimmy Cooper, Mary Jane Flora, Charles Flora, Donna (Walker) Sowers, George Barnhart, Sandra Myers, and Laird and Sarah Ann Bowman and their children.
An important and necessary part of the auction is the auctioneer. A variety of real estate and auction companies have donated services without charge through the years. A large tent is raised to cover the crowd and sale items. The tent was donated for many years, but when presented with the opportunity, it was purchased by Antioch Church.
The annual gathering of people from the community and the larger Virlina District has proven to be a time of great fellowship. On occasion, families have used the auction as the time for their family reunion. This opportunity for associating with friends and relatives has been an unintended consequence that brings great joy to many people.
Literally, hundreds of people have worked in various ways to make the first thirty years of the auction such a booming success. Each year, there are volunteers who work with quilts and crafts, produce, baked goods, toys, books, and concessions. Countless individuals make things specifically for the auction resulting in an excellent inventory of new items to sell. On occasion, persons from the community just appear with things to sell, often some garden produce of which they had an overabundance. Only with the joint effort of so many was it possible to achieve such unbelievable results.