Annual Souhegan Valley Chamber of Commerce auction to benefit verteran’s organization Chaplains’ Emergency Relief Fund

AMHERST – Several years ago, the Souhegan Valley Chamber of Commerce made a commitment to men and women serving actively in the military and to veterans. Through its annual auction, the chamber would provide funds to organizations that helped them in time of need.

The chamber, said Executive Director Tracy Hutchins, has kept that commitment and on Friday, April 11, it will continue to do so. That is when the annual auction – live and silent – will be held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Nashua from 6-10 p.m. It also features a full dinner with tickets priced at $75 per person.

This year, the auction will benefit the Chaplains’ Emergency Relief Fund, which was created to provide quick, temporary financial help for military members and their families who are facing unexpected financial needs.

Managed by volunteer trustees, who are military chaplains from various branches, CERF was created in 1990 as a private, nonprofit, tax-exempt entity registered with the IRS. Its express purpose is to assist military families with emergency financial needs, such as rent and mortgage payments, heating fuel and other utilities, car repairs and insurance, medical bills, prescriptions and the like.

“I think it was a very good choice,” Hutchins said in a recent interview. “This organization is not allowed to fundraise because it is run by two active duty National Guard chaplains and, as such, they are government employees, so (they’re) not allowed to raise money.

“They donate their time to administer the program and what I think a lot of our auction attendees will like is that 100 percent of the funds donated go to the recipients.”

In the six years that the chamber has been raising money for military organizations, it has pulled in more than $90,000. Last year, when the group supported by the auction was Veterans FIRST, the total hit $20,000, said Hutchins, who is in her first few months as executive director but who was on the chamber board of directors for three years, thus familiar with the auction.

“I’ve attended and worked little pieces of it,” she said, “but, yes, this is the first time this is my show.”

Hutchins took over for May Balsama, who retired a few months ago after eight years at the chamber’s helm. Before taking the reins, Hutchins was head of the Milford Improvement Team.

The most difficult aspect of running the auction, she said, is the organizational aspects, particularly categorizing the items that come in and making sure they, and everything else, are ready to go.

“The event itself I’m not really worried about,” she said. “I have a great committee, most of whom have been doing (the auction) for at least two or three years.”

Some of the items up for auction are a one-week stay in Rocca di Benano in the Umbria region of Italy, a one-week stay in the Luberon region of France and a week’s stay at the Zulu Nyala Game Lodge in South Africa.

For more information, go to www.souhegan.net.