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Charleston Southern University / Charleston Southern University News / CSU Women’s Council celebrates auction’s 10th Anniversary

CSU Womens Council celebrates auctions 10th Anniversary

by: University Relations

Women's CouncilThis November marks the 10th Anniversary of the Charleston Southern University Women’s Council Shopping for Scholars Auction. Charlene Kirk, who has been called a spark plug for the college, founded the council in 1983. She was involved in missions both locally and in the state and was also a member of the university’s Board of Trustees.

The Women’s Council immediately went to work. They were involved in beautifying the campus, including the Margaret Gilmore Garden. When a class of new students arrive, they invite them to a reception of goodies for the students and their parents.

Before the auction, the group worked tirelessly to earn money for student scholarships. They have held fashion shows, dinner shows and spaghetti dinners; they sold calendars, cookbooks, afghans and a myriad of other items but would barely break even.

Since all the money raised goes 100 percent to student scholarships, the women were determined to come up with an idea that would be more lucrative. In 2003 they decided to try an auction. Each of the 25 members bought three gifts and invited three friends to come to the auction. The result was $6,000, a tidy sum which thrilled the ladies.

Over the next several years the auction gained momentum, and in 2008, the annual auction generated $33,000, a single year record for the Women’s Council. Over the last nine years, the council has raised $188,029 and provided scholarships to 22 students.

Currently, the council has two scholarships named for Charlene B. Kirk and Mattie Leigh Francese. Francese was an active member of the Women’s Council. The scholarship was given in her memory when she was tragically killed in a car accident in 1985. Both women were strong supporters of the school and dedicated to its mission.

The Women’s Council remains strong to this day. Under the guidance of Susan Johnson, this year’s auction chairperson and a CSU graduate, the women are going above and beyond.

“Since this is the 10th Anniversary, we are trying to make it the most successful auction we have had thus far to celebrate 10 years of raising money for scholarships,” said Johnson. “Along with the auction, we had a Meet the Challenge Fund Raiser for $10,000 to echo the theme of the 10th Anniversary, and we have met our goal.”

The council meets throughout the year to discuss auction ideas and improvements. The items are donated by council members, businesses and friends of the University. All the items are new except for an occasional vintage item. The items range from handmade baby gowns to special dinners to Christmas baskets to vacation home stays and much more. And the silent auction is always a favorite.

“All year long, we are directed toward that auction,” said Sissy Hunter, ex officio council member and wife of CSU President, Dr. Jairy Hunter. “We start gathering donations as soon as the auction is over.”

Three days before the auction, things are buzzing as the women set up shop on campus. Items are hauled in and logged into the auction computer system. It’s a busy time and can be quite exhausting as the women spend countless hours preparing, but spirits remain high.

The auction brings with it a chill, a good reminder that the holidays are quickly approaching. Breakfast is served, and the auction hunters peruse the auction and silent auction items.

When auctioneer, David Meares, steps up, the next three hours are filled with laughter and playful fun. “When it comes to bidding, you have no friends,” Hunter laughed.

CSU students wind around the tables, showing interested bidders the items up close and reminding them that this is an opportunity to financially help students. Johnson said that many times the items sell for more because those bidding know that all the money goes for scholarships; it’s a donation to a favorite charity.

“We’ve all been amazed that {the auction} has been so successful,” said Johnson. “I think it is unique that we have the University’s support and not a lot of overhead. It all works because of the commitment of the ladies. There is a great spirit of giving from everyone involved.”

Soon the auction is over and buyers leave with their treasures. For the Women’s Council the next auction is just beginning.

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