UNALAKLEET, AK (December 4, 2015) — For more than six hours that extended late into the night, residents of this remote village of 720 people bid on items at a recent auction that raised nearly $20,000 for various local causes in a community that has suffered recent tragedy.
The gathering and generosity demonstrated the deep sense of community in the village, which has undergone especially difficult times lately with the deaths of seven people in the last month, including a 74-year-old woman who walked away from her home but was never found despite extensive searches.
Members of the Unalakleet Covenant Church, including volunteer auctioneer Karl Erickson, helped organize and lead the event. In an article published by Alaska Public Media, resident Blanche Cragle said the auction tradition began in the nineteenth century when the wife of a Swedish missionary with the Covenant Church arranged the first one.
The auction stretched from 7 p.m. Friday night to 1 a.m. Saturday morning, said Curtis Ivanoff, superintendent of the Alaska Conference of the Evangelical Covenant Church.
The money is used to help elders, church repairs, or single-parent families to help with Christmas gifts. Some of the proceeds also help defray funeral expenses.
“Some of the men get the plywood from the Native store,” Cragle said, “and then us ladies order the fabric and have it lined inside the casket.”
The amount raised at the auction comes after villagers raised more than $5,000 to charter rescue dogs to help search for Vivian Foote who was last seen walking through town on November 18. More than 120 volunteers in addition to law enforcement searched nearly a week for Foote before the search was called off.