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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Fresh off the auction block: a new way to help local businesses and charity

The biweekly auction aims to raise money for nonprofits while also helping local business. Graphic by Shabana Gupta.

Grinnell’s Ahrens foundation will be holding auctions throughout the month of February with proceeds going towards both local businesses and its own charitable missions. Products on sale range from food and movie nights to picture frames and baked goods.

While the auction itself is being handled by the Ahrens Foundation, the Grinnell Chamber of Commerce has been in charge of selecting the various local businesses that are participating, with an eye on helping those that may be struggling financially as a result of COVID-19.

“It really comes down to the need for the number of businesses,” said Kendra Vincent, the member engagement coordinator at the Chamber. “[We are] really trying to focus on the ones that have been hardest hit by the pandemic. Of course, it’s open to any business or organization in the community.”

In order to help as many local stakeholders as possible, the project has a complex funding structure. Grinnell College, the city government and Grinnell Mutual all contributed money to a shared fund to start the project. Following their investment, the Chamber of Commerce contacted businesses and used the initial funding to purchase goods and services to be sold in the auction.

Proceeds from the auction will be distributed around the Ahrens foundation and to other charitable organizations in Poweshiek County, while local stores will benefit by receiving the added business of the Chamber. Vincent said that $75,000 will be distributed to the participating businesses in exchange for their products during the first four weeks of the auction.

Some business owners are just happy to have the extra business, even if all the ins and outs of the auction process are not entirely clear.

“I don’t quite understand it myself,” said Jim Beckman, owner of Beckman Gallery and Gifts, “just exactly how it’s going to be run as far as I’m concerned, you know, what am I supposed to be doing? What do I not want to do? Just things like that.”

Beckman was approached by the Chamber of Commerce to participate in the auction last month. Several of his frames are up for sale in the auction, and he expects the Ahrens foundation to pick up the purchased items on Feb. 16.

Grin City Bakery is also participating in the auction, with several packs of doughnuts and other baked goods for sale. Co-owner Bill Molison said he decided to participate because of the auction’s charitable mission.

“Our small business has been supported so well by this community during the pandemic, we will do whatever we can to help out others in need, including non-profits,” he said. Like Beckman, he was approached in January by the Chamber of Commerce and worked alongside them to decide what to sell in the auction.

“Participating in this one round of events isn’t making us or breaking us, but anything really, really helps us in this pandemic environment,” said Molison, who declined to disclose how much money Grin City Baker would receive. “Any little bit helps, and that’s what this actually is, it’s just a little bit. I don’t want to get into a dollar amount, but it’s not a crazy number by any means.”

Other participants in the auction include Hotel Grinnell, Pagliai’s and Stepping Stones Christian Bookstore. The Ahrens Foundation did not respond to requests for comment.

The auction, which can be accessed on the Ahrens Foundation website, runs every week, from Monday to Thursday, until the end of February.

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