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A large crowd attended Friday’s LaGrange County Habitat for Humanity benefit auction in Shipshewana.

LAGRANGE — For the first time in several years, John Sisson walked away from Friday’s annual LaGrange County Habitat For Humanity benefit auction with a big smile on his face.

“We don’t have all the numbers in just yet, but we had a very successful sale,” he said.

The annual auction is the biggest fundraiser each year on the Habitat calendar. Sisson said he goes into the event hoping the auction raises enough money to cover at least half the cost of building a new Habitat home. But in recent years, thanks in part to the COVID pandemic, fundraising fell for the local organization. Last year’s event, while successful, fell short of expectations

This year, however, people arrived ready to help out the local organization. Most people, Sisson said, arrived early and stayed late, staying throughout the entire three-hour event.

Once again, a collection of about 30 quilts proved to be a big draw for many bidders this year. The habitat auction is known for its collection of handmade quilts, but the demand for those quilts, and the prices they fetched, seemed to fade a bit in recent years, Sisson said.

This year, however, that demand apparently came roaring back,

Sisson said it seems demand for the quilts came roaring back, Sisson said. Bidding on the quilts was strong this year. Ironically, this year’s event featured fewer quilts than in years past, and that was done on purpose.

“Typically, we’d offer 40-plus quilts, but this year, we kept our quilt numbers under 30,” Sisson explained. “We did that to keep people focused on everything up for auction. By having fewer quilts, we were able to focus more on the other items.”

The auction typically offers bidders a wide array of items, such as power tools, bedroom suites, furniture, knickknacks, kitchen items, household items, and more.

The star of this year’s auction, however, was a unique Amish buggy, built by a Leo-Cedarville buggy builder. Called a Suburban Buggy, it featured adjustable seats, an extra door, and fold-down rear seats. The buggy garnered action from bidders from across northern Indiana.

The buggy created a lot of attention and eventually sold for far more than Sisson and Habitat board members expected. That money will help Habitat build a new home and seed the purchase of another buggy to be auctioned at next year’s fundraiser.

Another big ticket item on the auction bill of sale was a 2023 RV donated by Riverside RV of LaGrange. That item too sold for more than its reserve.

“We were thrilled about that. We’re also happy to have a new relationship with Riverside RV, and hope to build on that relationship again next year, Sisson said. “It was a win/win for both of us. It gave them some recognition and it helped us. I think the RV drew some people in that may not have come to the auction if it wasn’t on the ticket.”

Even the event’s Haystack dinner turned out to be a real plus this year. In recent years, the event had prepared more food than was needed. This year, the Haystack dinner sold out. Almost every morsel was used to create a dinner for someone.

Sisson credits much of the successes of this year’s auction to changes made in how the event was advertised.

“We actually changed some of my advertising and I added the word because it hadn’t been in there,” he explained. “We did more advertising this year than we’ve done in the past two. We think that made a big difference for our haystack dinner. We basically sold out. The only thing I had leftover was some lettuce, and I’m in the process of delivering some of that to a few local shelters.”

Sisson said people arrived at this year’s auction ready to bid, and willing to support the local not-for-profit organization.

“I felt like we had a crowd that really understood this was a benefit,” he said.

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