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Handmade items ready for Operation St. Nick auction

MORRIS – Ghosts and pumpkins may be the decoration items of choice for October, but one local organization is already in the Christmas spirit.

Members of the Grundy Woodworkers’ Club handmade more than 200 wooden ornaments and used them to decorate a 7-foot tree, which is on display in the lobby of First Midwest Bank.

There also are handmade items under the tree, including a train, a Nativity scene and a sled.

Club members hope plenty of people see the tree – and even better, want it for their home or business – because it’s going to be one of the hundreds of items up for auction in December as part of a fundraiser for Operation St. Nick.

Now in its third decade, Operation St. Nick is a nonprofit organization that helps Grundy County families in need at Christmas and Easter, as well as with back-to-school supplies. Operation St. Nick’s Radio Auction, the fundraising engine that helps generate money for the nonprofit’s programs, is scheduled for Dec. 8 on WCSJ 103.1 FM.

Joe Schmitz, president of Operation St. Nick, said money raised at this year’s auction will be used to help provide gifts and meals for families in need.

The organization expects to help 50 to 60 families – with an estimated 150 to 160 kids – this year.

Operation St. Nick spends $200 on each child, working with parents to buy items off each child’s wish list. Each family also gets money to buy holiday meals, Schmitz said.

Bill Needham, vice president of the Grundy Woodworkers’ Club, said this is the first year the organization has done the tree for Operation St. Nick.

“It’s a well-known venue, and we wanted to do something that would help a lot of people,” he said when asked why the club chose to donate it to Operation St. Nick.

The tree and the ornaments, as well as the gifts underneath it, will go to one person in the auction, Needham said, but the sled will be auctioned off separately.

“They’ve been giving us items on and off for several years. Any time I get something quality like that donated, that’s Hoo-ah!” Schmitz said of the woodworking club’s donation.

Schmitz said the tree will have a minimum bid of $1,000, but Bill Needham’s wife, Judy, hopes it fetches at least $10,000.

“I hope a company buys it and keeps putting it up every year,” she said. “It’s really so precious. A lot of hours went into it, with love.”

The tree is one of about 250 in this year’s auction, and Schmitz said he hopes to raise $100,000 to $110,000, the amount usually reached by the auction.

Schmitz said other auction items will be known after Nov. 18, with main auction items expected to be on display at Standard Bank shortly before Thanksgiving and other items at Athletic Outfitters around the time of the annual Home for the Holidays in downtown Morris.

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