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Memorial Stadium is not the only venue in Lincoln that can boast about sell-outs. It was a sell-out at the Cornhusker Marriott Hotel ballroom Jan. 25 when more than 500 women (and a few men) gathered to support the 11th annual Helping Hands Auction.

Organized by United Way of Lincoln and Lancaster County’s Women in Philanthropy, the event raised over $43,000 to purchase diapers and warm winter clothing for children in need. A portion of the proceeds also benefited the Autism Action Partnership’s Circle of Friends program.

Bridget Fargen, anchor with Lincoln’s Channels 10/11 News who handled master of ceremony duties for the third year in a row, said that she wouldn’t miss the event. “It brings together so many people from diverse backgrounds who are here to shop, have fun and do something really important for our community,” she said.

Natalia Wiita, who chaired the 31-member organizing committee, said enthusiasm runs high all year as the committee manages the event’s many details. “We know there are children and families who need the basics and who are thrilled to receive the benefits of our efforts,” she said. “It really is a meaningful experience for us.”

New this year were women eagerly searching their smartphones for the latest bid on dozens of baskets, jewelry, accessories, wine and other snazzy items along with a table loaded with sumptuous desserts.

“We added electronic bidding,” said Michelle Bring, senior director of marketing and resource development for United Way. “People liked the convenience of streamlined bidding and checkout.”

Also new this year was a spontaneous “bachelor auction” orchestrated by Nick Cusick, immediate past president of the United Way board of directors. “This was unplanned,” he said. “But it was a lot of fun and made more money for the cause.”

Linda Robinson Rutz, longtime United Way volunteer and president of the United Way board of directors, said that women in Lincoln are charity minded.

“They come out for this event because they care about what happens in Lincoln,” she said. “The auction is so successful because what we do here makes an immediate impact on those who need support.”

The Helping Hands Auction ended the 2018 event with a big finish – 14 live auction items added several thousand dollars. And hundreds of guests not only took home some beautiful items, but left with hearts that were filled with cheer at having helped their neighbors.

United Way’s mission is to improve lives by mobilizing the caring power of the Lincoln and Lancaster County community. For more information, see


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