A sold-out crowd gathered at the Pine Island Elks Lodge Wednesday night to support the recovery efforts of the Chamber of Commerce through a benefit that was quickly organized after a fire destroyed the building.
Before the event officially began, Bernard Johnson, owner of Bert's Bar, held a moment of silence in honor of Sally Tapager, who passed away last week. She was a past president of the Chamber of Commerce, along with a huge advocate in promoting Greater Pine Island.
The event featured a prime rib buffet for 120 individuals, along with a live auction by Scott Robertson Auctioneers and music by R.V. Parks.
Scott Robertson Auctioneers donated time Wednesday night during the Pine Island Chamber of Commerce Benefit Dinner to get the crowd involved in a live auction.
Alice and Phil Tribbey were in the crowd Wednesday night to help support the chamber.
Alice said the Chamber of Commerce holds a special place in their hearts because of the assistance they received from five members a few years ago. She said they held a reunion in October 2001 for the USS Pine Island. Unfortunately the caterer they hired was late, so the chamber members stepped in and made salads, while Tapager entertained the crowd.
Leoma Lovegrove also provided a helping hand by having members of the reunion paint a huge canvas she brought.
"It pays to live in a small town," Alice said.
Phil said he served on the ship from 1956-1958. One hundred and forty people attended the reunion that year.
The chamber benefit blossomed after R.V. Parks showed an interest in helping the chamber recover from the fire in January. He said the clubhouse burned down and he knew people were struggling out here on the island at the start of the season.
R.V. Parks first called the Chamber of Commerce and when he could not get through, he called Jim Flanders, Pine Island Elks entertainment chair.
"Jim Flanders said it was a great idea and got the ball rolling," he said.
R.V. Parks said he wanted to donate his time, so he could help the chamber build a nicer building than it had.
Robertson also donated his time during the charity event.
"Let's raise some serious money in Sally's memory," he told the crowd before the live auction kicked off. "It's not how much you pay for an item, it's how much you raise for the charity."
Robertson, a Florida state champion in auctioneering, had the crowd laughing as he encouraged them to bid higher on numerous items donated by the businesses and members of the community. Fund-raiser auctions have been a profession of his for the past 18 years.
He said he grew up on a farm in Kentucky where his family sold its items at an auction, which became a social event for all those involved.
Robertson said he thought the auction was fantastic.
"Pine Islanders always have big hearts and they support their own," he said, adding that individuals happily overpaid for items for the greater good of the cause.
Pat Hutchinson was a member of the audience who got into the spirit of bidding high for items.
"I bid because it's for the chamber. It is an important event to support the chamber," she said. "Our chamber supports all of our businesses."
Event co-chair Sue Trimble was also very pleased with how the charity event turned out.
"We think it went perfect," she said. "We had so much fun."
The Elks Lodge donated all the food for the cause, so any money made during the event went directly to the chamber. Trimble said the 50/50 raffle alone generated $500 for the chamber.
Lisa Benton, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce, said she thought the benefit was a great success. She said they raised more than $2,300 in the auction alone.
"We probably made around $5,000 last night," Benton said.