It all began in the early 1970s as an outdoor rummage auction in a tent, but in a few year's time the Rotary Auction grew to be a five-night per week event with proceeds averaging from $3,000-$5,000.
In 1989, the fundraiser was changed from a March event to a Christmas auction held during three evenings in the week following Thanksgiving. Proceeds continued to grow with recent auctions bringing in as much as $10,000.
"We collect merchandise from local business merchants," said Ken Rubenacker, auction co-chair for the Sikeston Rotary Club, who credited the "generosity of the local merchants" with making the auction a success. "Especially this year with the financial situation," he added.
Rubenacker said merchants have "given as much or even more" than in previous years, despite the troubled economy. "It really surprised us."
More than 200 local businesses donated something for this year's event, according to Rubenacker. "We hope to have 350-400 items to be bid on during the auction."
Among the many items to be auctioned this year:
* an executive office chair, retail value $295, donated by Scheffers' Office Furniture and Business Machines;
* 16-by-20-inch family portraits valued at $250 by Calbert Photography;
* a historical collage of Sikeston from Lynn Lancaster at the Sweetgum Gallery;
* one-year membership for the Bootheel Golf Club valued at $600;
* two nights at Fall Creek Resort in Branson worth $180;
* a Pentium 4 personal computer from Software-Hardware valued at $1,225.
The donated items are split into groups to be auctioned off during different time periods, "approximately 35 items per hour," according to Rubenacker. "People just call in and put their bid in by phone. The person with the highest bid by the end of the hour gets the item."
"We also will be making on-air donations to local causes during the course of the auction," Rubenacker added.
The Sikeston Rotary Club supports several charities and community-service entities each year with the money raised.
Proceeds from the auction for the most part go right back into Sikeston, although there are some exceptions. "We just sent a donation to the New York Relief Fund," said Rubenacker.
Beneficiaries have included the United Way, Bootheel Humane Society, Community Soup Kitchen, Sikeston Youth Soccer League, Sikeston Depot, Billy Graham Crusade, American Legion, Sikeston Little League, YMCA, Just Say No Club, Little League Bambinoes and Sikeston Babe Ruth Baseball, Kenny Rogers Children's Center, area schools and the Sikeston Area Chamber of Commerce among others.
Money raised is also used to provide SEMO scholarships for Sikeston Senior High students and SAHEC scholarships as well.
Sikeston was first introduced to the Rotary credo, "Service Above Self," on April 1, 1947, when 22 local businessmen became charter members of the Sikeston chapter of Rotary International.
In the following years, Rotary members have devoted countless hours to the community beginning with civic contributions in their first year under the guidance of charter president Frank I. Sisson.
Over the past 54 years, many significant contributions by the Rotarians to the community have been made from uniforms for Little League Baseball teams to a life-saving extrication tool for the Rescue Squad.
Among the more visible contributions was the adoption of what is now known as Rotary Park in 1989. Members are proud to note that the first shelter at Rotary Park was built by Rotarians themselves.
Sikeston Rotary Club members say they hope their history of community service serves not only as a fond memory but also as a strong foundation on which to build even greater contributions.