When the invasive Emerald Ash Borer made its unwelcome mark on the trees of Huntington Woods a few years back, community members weren’t letting their trees go down without a fight.
The 31st annual Huntington Woods Men’s Club (HWMC) Service Auction on Saturday night was proof enough of that.
“We pride ourselves in doing things as a community,” said Tony Lehmann, a longtime resident and Men’s Club member. “This event is the metal of Huntington Woods. This is how we show what we are made of.”
The charity auction drew in an estimated 800 community members strolling through Huntington Road, Scotia Avenue and Lincoln Drive. Not the streets Huntington Woods residents live on and commute through each day, but the auction lanes set up with hundreds of items to bid on.
The auction grossed more than $117,000 in proceeds this year.
For the second year in a row, the auction sold out of tickets in advance. HWMC member Todd Sperl, who helped spearhead the event, wore a smiling face Saturday evening given such a fantastic turnout. In fact, he guessed to bet that even a few people from the neighborhood would try to sneak their way in to get in on the action.
Lehmann said it’s just a testament of how active and invested residents of “The Woods” really are.
“People could be anywhere tonight, doing anything, but they choose to be here making the city better,” he said Saturday evening. “It’s about helping people do good things.”
Locals pulled together in all kinds of ways to make the event a success. Vendors, merchants, artists and community members who wanted to put their time and talents to good use could all be found along the lanes and booths of the gym inside the Huntington Woods Recreation Center.
The Coffee Beanery of Berkley, and Noodles & Company and Monty’s Grill of Royal Oak were just a few eateries who donated food guests sampled throughout the evening. There was also a beer and wine tent and plenty of complimentary hors d'oeurves to taste.
Sperl believes one of the best parts of the annual auction is the opportunity that residents, businesses and members of surrounding communities have to get involved.
“Even the young kids get involved,” he explained, noting the babysitting service prizes at the auction, courtesy of some very gracious 9-year-olds, including his own daughter.
Without a doubt, another highlight of the night is that as the men's club's biggest event of the year, it’s a premiere social outing around town.
Lehmann calls it “the two degrees of separation” in Huntington Woods: “Here in The Woods, you know everyone.”
The gym had an overflow of auction attendees spilling into the main lobby and throughout the recreation center. The energy of the laughter and chatter kept attendees as enthusiastic as the coveted items they were bidding on.
“It’s definitely nice to see people you don’t get to see, to catch up with them,” said Huntington Woods resident Kim Burns, who clenched her yellow slip to claim her prize: a pink recycling bin she scored for $45. “It’s especially good to get out and meet new people from my neighborhood.”
Attendee Michael McGrath bid on several “cool” items and just about lost as many as he won, but all in good fun, he said.
He and his wife did walk away with some unforgettable finds though, including a furry purse for her, a “crazy vodka holder penguin thing” and a live sit-in with Matt Shepherd on 1130 WDFN from the Almost Live auction.
McGrath said the key to winning to many items in the Almost Live auctions is to “Put in your bid, make eye contact and just ride it out.”
It was the McGraths’ second year attending the HWMC Service Auction and he jokingly admitted they are “auction crashers” from Pleasant Ridge.
“Come on,” he said laughing, “These guys do great things, of course we’re going to make it.”
That just goes to show how much everyone likes having a Tree City USA around, whether a resident of “The Woods” or just a local who can appreciate its beauty.
A look at the numbers
- The HWMC Service Auction has been raising funds for the betterment of the city for 31 years and counting. This year was the second year tickets sold out in advance.
- Around 800 attendees were expected at the Saturday evening auction, which resident and Men’s Club member Tony Lehmann finds pretty impressive with a total population of around 6,100 in Huntington Woods.
- The auction earned $85,283.74 with a few big-ticket items like the kitchen renovation and safari, as well as hundreds of smaller items that were bid on. Ad revenue brought in $20,000 and the sold-out ticket sales totaled to $11,760.
- The biggest item of the evening, the kitchen renovation, went to Carlos and Bridget Guerra for $10,200.
- HWMC member Rob Weed said the auction typically raises between $110,000-$130,000. This year, $60,000 will be used for the city’s trees, getting Huntington Woods back on the five-year rotation of maintenance.
- More than 6,000 trees around Huntington Woods are in need of some TLC after the Emerald Ash Borer plague halted annual tree upkeep a few years back.
- Huntington Woods has held the title of “Tree City USA” by the National Arbor Day Foundation for more than 25 years now. Just 17 cities in the country have held the honor longer.
- The HWMC has raised and donated more than $1 million, which is poured back into the city. Notable auction projects by the Men’s Club include the town clock in 1987, Burton Community Park in 1993, the skate board park in 2002 and the single stream recycling carts last year.
- In addition to the tree maintenance program for the city, money raised by the Men's Club this year will support other Huntington Woods activities, such as the parade, fireworks and Teen Council.