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TOWNSEND — By promoting community, Townsend Congregational Church’s annual auction is more than just a fundraiser.

Saturday, May 5 will mark the TCC’s fifth annual auction, an event that has been growing in popularity every year. Over 20 items and services from last year are returning to the auction block and the list keeps growing.

“We depend on fundraising events for the church,” Pastor Shayna Appel said. “Usually we end up with a deficit, but the people in the church know how to close the gap.”

It is more than just a money-maker, it brings together the community of the TCC and beyond. Appel said many people have gotten involved with the church after attending the event.

“They come and visit on a Sunday and see that mornings are not all that different, we try to be relaxed and fun and have a lot of participation,” she said.

All are welcome to attend, and TCC gets professional auctioneer Ron Pelletier from Brookline Auction Gallery for the day. Organizer Gretchen Churchville says the event is based on donations, which allows anyone to get involved in any way they want.

“We are not demanding money, you can participate by giving time, talent or a treasure as well,” Churchville said.

Items like custom-made sweaters, homeade pies or chili and box seat tickets to the Lowell Spinners will all be under the gavel. As will vacation packages to Newfound Lake and a canoe/kayak tour of Pepperell Pond. Services such as an interior design consultation or a color palette for your home, elevated photography of you house or two hours of professional financial planning are usually hot items, Appel said.

“The variation is always interesting,” she said.

One of the more popular bids is the “Born to be Wild” tour, a one-day excursion with Pastor Appel on her Harley Davidson Heritage Softail Classic. Biker Appel, sometimes joined with other “TCC Holy Rollers,” takes the highest bidder to a destination of their choice and treats them to lunch.

Appel said past trips have gone to Cape Elizabeth, ME, Mystic, CT and Foxwoods Casino. If the bidder feels like going in a pack, the Holy Rollers may join up with the Red Knights, an international firefighters motorcycle club, as Appel also serves as chaplain for Townsend Fire Department. Male churchgoers have gone on the tour, too.

“You’d think they wouldn’t want to ride on the back of the bike, but they bid,” Appel said.

Her tour is great way to get to know people, Appel said. In her 15 years doing it at TCC and other churches, she said she has gotten to know people well, and the churchgoers get to know her. Churchville said the auction is the same way.

“Aspects of peoples personalities come out in the donations,” she said.

Fundraising is something the church takes pride in, Appel said. If they’re are not raising money for the church itself, they are helping with other efforts like the Townsend Ecumenical Outreach or, more recently, the Relay for Life. Because of the size and breadth of United Church of Christ, TCC can be involved in relief efforts locally, nationally and internationally.

“Ninety-eight percent of the donations go directly to where they’re needed. If there is a relief effort far away, we have a church nearby — we’ll have people on the ground ready to help,” she said.

From Sunday, Apr. 29 to Wednesday, May 2, TCC will be accepting donations for the auction. Churchville says any skill one can offer, such as photography, cooking or professional services are welcome. Any items that are no longer needed, but could be given away are wanted, too.

Volunteers will be serving food at the event. On auction day, Saturday, May 7, lot previews will begin at 9 a.m. Bidding will begin at 10:30 a.m. For information on donating, volunteering or the event itself, contact the church at 978-597-8925. Absentee bids can also be placed at that number.

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