Dolls; puzzles; yoga lessons; a dinner of home-smoked ribs with a side of coleslaw. These were just some of the items up for bid in a series of virtual auctions organized by North Merrick School District faculty. Over the past three months, the auctions raised more than $5,000 for Bellmore-Merrick’s Community Cupboard, which has taken a hit as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
When North Merrick’s schools switched to remote learning in March, Deputy Superintendent Beth Friedman had to reimagine how the district would encourage team building. The virtual auctions allowed teachers and administrators to come together while also giving back to the community.
“It was truly delightful to see so many faculty members smiling, laughing and having an overall good time,” Friedman wrote in an email to the Herald Life.
Before each event, participating faculty were asked to send pictures of new or gently used auction items to the district’s technology team. The photos were then compiled into a slideshow that was presented to bidders via Zoom. Teachers decluttered their homes to find items to put up for bid, while others made use of their cooking, yoga or musical talents to contribute goods and services.
Decked out in a black suit and tie, Harold D. Fayette Principal Howard Merims acted as the auctioneer and encouraged friendly competition among participants. The prevailing winners submitted payments to Friedman via Venmo or mail-in check, and donors mailed, delivered or forwarded prizes to the highest bidders.
“It was really a lot of fun,” Merims said. “People were trying to outdo each other, and it made them relax, have a good time and forget what we’re dealing with for that hour and a half.”
“I was surprised because I thought this was going to be a fun nickel and dime [event], but people were very, very generous,” Friedman added. She has continued to receive donations from faculty who didn’t participate but still want to contribute to the cupboard, whose shelves are under stocked and services needed.
“To date, we have helped over 90 Bellmore-Merrick families and an average of 40 on a biweekly basis,” the Cupboard Crew wrote in a letter to Friedman. “[This] contribution to the Community Cupboard will allow us to maintain those numbers, even as we all continue to fight through the crisis.”
The district inspired other organizations to follow its lead, too. After some congregants from Temple Avodah, a synagogue in Oceanside, attended one of the virtual auctions, they asked Merims to help them recreate the event to raise money for their own community.
“People are interested in the idea and I’m excited,” Merims said. “It’s just about doing good.”
Residents who would like to donate to the Community Cupboard can drop off items in a container outside the Brookside building (1260 Meadowbrook Road, Merrick) Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and noon. Families in need can visit the district website at www.bellmore-merrick.k12.ny.us/ or call (516) 992-1073 for more information.