We Care 2019 Sunday 04.jpg

In this file photo from 2019, volunteers Ben Robertson, left, and Terry Finley clear the items off of a bid lot as WWKI’s Sherry Foxx and Tammy Lively share the winning bids on TV during the 2019 We Care telethon on Sunday.

The annual We Care Telethon is back on this year after it was cancelled in August due to the pandemic, but the fundraiser will look and feel more different than any time since it launched in 1973.

We Care announced last week it is holding an online-only auction, and doing away with the live call-in bidding which has been a telethon staple for decades. The fundraiser will be held the weekend of Dec. 4-6.

The annual Trim a Tree festival will not be held this year.

We Care President Becky Varnel said the nonprofit had considered adding an online element to the auction for years, and the pandemic provided a chance to give it a try. She said the hope is that having the auction online will allow more people to participate instead of only those who could watch it on Comcast or streaming online.

“We think it will be successful and give more people a chance to see the things we have to auction off,” Varnel said.

She said all the donated items will be listed on a website on which bidders will be able to view them, read the descriptions and bid during specific hours for each item.

There will also be “live” segments during certain times, televised on Comcast, in which certain items will be featured to keep people interested in the auction. More details on the specifics on the auction will be announced closer to December.

“I keep telling people that this not a game plan, it’s more of a blueprint that can be wadded up and thrown away depending on what COVID does,” Varnel said. “We’re just doing the best we can for this year.”

Now, the organization is asking the community to pitch in and donate items to make the auction a success. Instead of taking donations every day leading up the fundraiser, the nonprofit is now only accepting donations at set times on the weekend.

The first donations came in last Friday and Saturday. Varnel said items included a dirt bike, three-wheelers and an industrial sized meat slicer.

Upcoming donation times are from:

  • 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Nov. 13
  • 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 14
  • 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Nov. 20
  • 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 21

Donations should be dropped off at We Care’s new headquarters at 1700 E. Sycamore, located on the corner of Ind. 931 North and Sycamore Street. Donations will be accepted at the far north service door.

The organization purchased the former Aldi store last year for $650,000, and has worked to renovate and prepare the facility to host the online auction. Varnel said the pandemic has actually allowed them to expedite the project, since more volunteers have been available to help with the renovations.

She said the ultimate goal is to open up the facility to any nonprofit which needs a place to hold fundraisers or other events so it can be utilized as a kind of community building.

“This building is something that is for the community, so if other nonprofits need a place to go, we want to be accommodating within the limits that we have,” Varnel said. “We’re very excited about the building and letting the community in to see what it can offer.”

In the end, holding the auction this year as an online-only fundraiser is more than just a way to raise money to help local nonprofits. Varnel said a major reason for the auction is keeping a beloved Kokomo tradition alive during a time when it’s needed most, even if it’s not quite the same.

“We tried to do something that would still touch the community and let them know we still have the heart for them, and we’re praying they have the heart for us to make this successful in its own way,” she said. “We want to make sure people have hope, because that’s something that’s so hard to come by in this day and age.”

We Care said no matter how much is raised this year, it will still fully fund the six nonprofits that the fundraiser supports, including the Salvation Army, Goodfellows, Kokomo Rescue Mission, Bona Vista, Mental Health Association and the We Care Hope Fund.

Carson Gerber can be reached at 765-854-6739, carson.gerber@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter @carsongerber1.

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Carson Gerber is a reporter for the Kokomo Tribune and can be reached at 765-854-6739, carson.gerber@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter @carsongerber1.

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