• Bidding up a storm of aid

  • David Hackett works the room at the Grain Valley Community Center.

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  • David Hackett works the room at the Grain Valley Community Center.
    “You know the penguins are coming next year. I am looking forward to that,” says the former Grain Valley superintendent and current pastor at Faith United Methodist Church, holding up half a dozen tickets to the Kansas City Zoo.
    “Twenty-five,” he says, calling out the current bid.
    “Twenty-seven, fifty?”
    “Twenty-five. Thank you very much,” he says to the top bidder.
    And so it goes for close to an hour, as donated items are sold off. A Grain Valley High School Eagles stadium seat goes for $50. A bottle of Zarda Bar-B-Q sauce and a $50 gift certificate goes for $50. A portrait of Sheriff Andy Taylor, Deputy Barney Fife and young Opie, drawn (and later autographed) by local attorney Kim Roam, goes for $60.
    The Grain Valley Chamber of Commerce held the auction this week as the centerpiece of its monthly luncheon. The chamber raised $2,055 for the Grain Valley Assistance Council, which continues to see sharp increases in demand for food and other services. St. Mary’s Medical Center of Blue Springs paid for the luncheon itself, so any money brought in went to the Assistance Council.
    It’s the third straight year that the chamber has used its December luncheon this way.
    “People are losing their jobs,” said Jen Morgan, the chamber’s executive director. “People are losing their homes. Kids are doing without Christmas and going hungry. I think the community wants to step up.”
    It does that at every turn.
    Also this week was the city’s Christmas tree lighting and visit by Santa to Armstrong Park. The barrel was out for nonperishable food. The new theater – B&B Theaters Marketplace 8, at the northeast corner Interstate 70 and Main Street – is opening in about 10 days and plans a $25 black-tie gala on Dec. 18, benefiting the group.
    In August, 180 children got school supplies, and that same month, when case manager Mary Strack said supplies of food where the lowest she’d seen in her 16 years on the job, a food drive – trumpeted by the chamber – brought in 1,000 items.
    About half of that was brought to a chamber luncheon, and half came from local churches, including 200 items from the First Baptist Church, 207 W. Walnut, which has given the group space for 26 years and many of whose members support it.
    “They’re just very generous,” Strack said.
    Strack sees the need constantly. In July, the group served 83 families, 10 more than the month before. By November, that was up to 124.
    For Thanksgiving alone, 1,100 items were given now. Now the group is getting for Christmas: 236 children are signed up for Christmas store in a couple of weeks, including 70 in the hard-to-buy-for age range of 13 to 17. Altogether, 94 families have signed up – plus 30 families without children getting boxes of food and gift cards.
    Page 2 of 2 - “We have a very caring community,” said Strack.
    Strack can be reached at the Assistance Council’s office at 816-355-0328. She’s there on Wednesdays.

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