Community Services' dreams yield $425,000
Monday evening, lovely, undulating Ocean Park in Oak Bluffs was the scene for the 31st Annual Possible Dreams Auction. The annual Martha's Vineyard Community Services (MVCS) fundraiser raised more than $425,000 during the evening, and additional donations are expected to push the final tally higher.
Dreams co-chairman Jim Shane estimated that nearly 800 of the 1,000 seats under the tent were occupied. He said he hoped to reach $500,000 in total donations, once all contributions have been accounted for.
This year's audience included a mix of seasonal and year-round residents, novice auction-goers, and long-time attendees.
"It was a wonderful night," Mr. Shane said in a telephone conversation Tuesday. "Some of the old-time bidders weren't there, which was a negative, but the positive was there were lots of new bidders that bode well for the future. And, lots of money came from the back of the tent, which is great to see."
Stephanie Steinly of Thurmont, Md., said she was happy her visit with her friend Diane Smadbeck of Edgartown coincided with the week of the auction. "We're childhood friends," Ms. Steinly said of Ms. Smadbeck, an MVCS board member. "Diane's been telling me about this for 20 years, and this is the first time it worked out that I was able to attend."
Gale Meister of Edgartown and Barbara Reynolds of Vineyard Haven, Ms. Smadbeck's fellow teachers at the Edgartown School, joined them for the event.
Mark Lepkowski, a vacationer from East Lyme, Conn., who enjoyed his first auction Monday night, said he had heard about the event in years past and was curious to see what it was all about. "I think the Jim Belushi House of Blues night looks like fun," he said. "And, the Grand Prix trip-that would be the dream for me."
At 4:30 pm, singer/songwriter Livingston Taylor took the stage and provided a relaxed backdrop of music as attendees found their seats. Before he began strumming his guitar, he adjusted his bowtie, smoothed the fabric of his blue and white seersucker suit, and declared with a smile, "I'm delighted to be here."
MVCS executive director Julia Burgess said a few words to open the event: "This has been a challenging year for community services, and we are extremely grateful to have a core community of volunteers who work long and tireless hours obtaining the dreams and organizing this wonderful and unique event. We hope you bid often and high for community services."
The festivities kicked off with 17-year-old high school singing sensation Katie Mayhew of West Tisbury performing the Judy Garland classic "Over the Rainbow," accompanied by Wes Nagy.
Co-auctioneer Rick Lee proceeded to give the rundown on the evening's first lightning round, a new installment to the Possible Dreams Auction. "We're one community with six personalities, and we want family participation in this lightning round," he said.
The first of three, each lightning round featured several two-minute auctions that were promoted as family-friendly Island experiences, including guest judging at the junior baking competition with John Alley at the 2009 Martha's Vineyard Agricultural Fair, co-hosting a program on MVY Radio, and partaking in an educational hands-on hour with Gus Ben David at his World of Reptiles and Birds Park.
In addition to the lightning round auctions, 36 dreams were auctioned off, including several dreams that went for $10,000 or more.
Using a mixture of cajoling, guilt, and heckling, co-auctioneer Susan Klein put her usual brand of good-humored pressure on bidders. After failing to convince one bidder to go up another $500, she scolded, "Oh, for goodness sake - what'd you come to this auction for?"
Proceeds from the Possible Dreams Auction go towards programs maintained by MVCS, including the Community Building and Innovation Program, CONNECT to End Violence, Early Childhood Programs, Disability Services, the Island Counseling Center, and the Thrift Shop.
This year's total of $425,000 was considerably less than the 2008 total of $560,000, or the $730,000 generated in 2006. Nonetheless, Ms. Klein said the auction's turnout was phenomenal, considering the economic setbacks people have suffered in the past year.
A weeklong trip to Provence, France brought in $16,000 - the top-grossing dream of the evening. Long-time friends Ed Swan and Minnie Baylor-Henry split the cost of the dream, which included lodging for eight on the grounds of one of France's oldest vineyards, and gourmet meals prepared by Espresso Love owner Carol McManus.
Ms. Baylor-Henry, a consultant at Deloitte Touche financial advisory firm, and a resident of Boston's Chestnut Hill area, said that as a wine lover, this dream was not one she could pass up. "I've always wanted to go to Provence, and this is a fabulous opportunity to spend a week with friends," she said.
Another big win was a trip to the Brazilian Grand Prix, in Sao Paolo, which was donated by Martin Homlish, president and chief executive officer of SAP Global Marketing.
In similar fashion to the 2008 auction, more than one party had their eye on the Formula One dream, and Mr. Homlish offered to donate a second trip to whoever matched the final bid of $11,000. Jeffrey Otte of Oak Bluffs walked away with one dream weekend to the Grand Prix, and second-place bidders John Early and Steve Schwab matched the $11,000 bid to come out as winners themselves.
A Vineyard fishing adventure for four with Cooper Gilkes and Times managing editor and fishing columnist Nelson Sigelman was another heavily sought after dream, which topped out at $7,000.
Barry Tatelman, formerly of Jordan's Furniture, and Boston Herald owner Pat Purcell - who are no strangers to seeing their names in print - will join the ace Island anglers for their own fishing expedition, which will later be featured in The Times' Gone Fishin' column.
After seeing the beautiful 104-foot restored 1926 Trumpy motor yacht Freedom, Joan Doherty bid $13,000 on the dream donated by owners Nancy and Chuck Parrish to spend an evening aboard the boat for a cocktails and dinner cruise for up to 30 people, catered by ArtCliff Diner.
Ms. Doherty and her husband, Edward, who live in Saddle Home, N.J., have been coming to the Vineyard for 30 years and own a home in Edgartown. They will plan to schedule their night on the boat next summer when friends and family can join them, Ms. Doherty said.
Connecticut resident and auction regular Carol Guthrie was a big winner Monday, with contributions totaling $15,000 for three dreams, including one lightning round dream. Among her wins was a $10,000 bid for a sunset sail for four on the schooner Charlotte, which includes a serenade by singers/songwriters Carly Simon and Ben Taylor while photographer Alison Shaw captures the occasion.
"Carly is a brilliant musician, and Ben is, too," Ms. Guthrie said. "Alison Shaw went to Smith College, and so did I, so I'm looking forward to talking to her about that. Plus, I like to sail, so it's really a win-win situation."
Janet Hefler contributed reporting to this article.