National Volunteer Week: Woodingford Lodge

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To be clear, 90-year-old Richard Esseltine always intended to bring along his 89-year-old wife of 70-plus years, Marion.

But it was obvious, even to a casual observer, the presence of three younger women had heated up the Woodingford Lodge 6th Annual Spring Auction bidding war.

“A picnic, Richard,” laughed auction assistant Trisha Shearer. “Did you not hear it was a teddy bear picnic?”

“Hey Richard,” interjected volunteer John Hall from across the room. “I’ve got my wallet out too.”

The concept is comparatively simple. To help beat the late-winter blahs, Woodingford Lodge residents are awarded ‘funny money’ based on attendance at activity programs and therapy sessions through a six-week period.

“It gets them involved and out,” said Shearer, noting 30 of 34 residents were participating.

The exercise concludes in the lobby where residents get a chance to blow their hard-earned money at an auction, hosted by Woodingford staff and community volunteers, including auctioneer Tom Hamulecki.

Volunteers are key to the auction and many other programs, credited Shearer. “Each and every year.”

Residents bid on lots including toiletries, crafts and goodies, including delectable-looking chocolate treats. They exhibited a variety of bidding styles, from the conservative, to the ‘go big or go home,’ attitude displayed by Katie Todt’s bidding assistant, son Ernie.

“She kind of got on my case because we weren’t bidding,” he admitted. “We had get start bidding.”

A wide variety of lots were going, going – and gone – under Hamulecki’s direction. But clearly, the prospect of a teddy bear picnic hosted by a trio of staff members had the men digging deep into their reserves.

“I was interested,” Esseltine admitted.

A precedent had been set the previous year, said Shearer, when a male PSW (Personal Support Worker) dressed up in a suit and offered his services for a coffee date, firing up female bidding war.

“It was all she (the winner) had, and I want to say it was over $20,” Shearer laughed.

She put herself on the line this year as part of the teddy bear troika, along with Jen Healey and Kathy Stonkus, perking up the male portion of the crowd, including Esseltine.

“He did, didn’t he?” laughed Shearer, noting Hall – a volunteer who had not earned any Woodingford Lodge funny money – was also stepping into the fray. “He was opening his real wallet.”

Esseltine wasn’t 100% sure whose picnicking services he was bidding on, but wasn’t overly concerned.

“I didn’t know which ones, they’re all nice girls.”

Esseltine’s intentions had always been to supplement the teddy bear trio with Marion, who he first met at the Brownsville Continuation School, and will have been married to for 71 years this June.

“That was fine,” Shearer smiled. “After 70 years, they’re attached.”

In the end, Doug Stafford prevailed with the high bid, leaving Esseltine without hard feelings, if some slight disappointment.

“Ran out of money, I only had thirteen-and-a-quarter,” Esseltine shrugged, explaining the effort and auction had been all in good sport.

“We have a little fun here,” he concluded. “The girls put a lot into it, they do a lot of work, it’s up to us to cooperate a little bit.”



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