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Auction Boosts Lebanon High Project Graduation

  • Lisa Miller, of Grantham, reacts after placing the winning bid of $400 on four front row tickets to the 2018 Lebanon High School graduation during an auction to benefit the school's Project Graduation in Lebanon, N.H., Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Lebanon High School senior Joe Kibbie, 17, of Cornish, helps carry away a canoe after it was sold for $500 in the school's Project Graduation benefit auction in Lebanon, N.H., Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017. The boat was built by Lebanon High's wood shop students and half the proceeds from its sale will be donated back to the wood shop. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Auctioneer Patrick Flanagan insisted on smelling a s'mores cake held by student volnteer Elizabeth Swift, 17, of Lebanon, and donated to the Project Graduation auction by Karen and Mike Anikis in Lebanon, N.H., Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Sunday, November 19, 2017

Lebanon — In the homestretch of the annual auction supporting Lebanon High School’s alcohol-free graduation party, volunteers were shuttling homemade pies and boxes of donated pizzas from the concession table in the back of the school cafeteria to the microphone in the front on Saturday afternoon.

“What do we have there?” auctioneer Patrick Flanagan asked. “One cheese, one pepperoni, they tell me. ... We’ll be selling the chairs pretty quick.”

By now, Flanagan had already spent more than three hours coaxing some 80 bargain-hunters to bid on nearly $20,000 worth of donated merchandise and crafts.

The prizes ranged from gift certificates to a canoe that students built in the school wood shop to a baseball signed by versatile Red Sox hearthrob Brock Holt to gift baskets of food, hair supplies and dog toys, as well as fitness-club memberships, rounds of golf at several area courses, a cord of wood each from two separate donors and tickets to a Manchester Monarchs minor-league hockey game.

Oh, and don’t forget that $400 worth of service that Stearns Septic donated, which Grantham resident Lin Hill snagged for $350.

“I didn’t even know what things they had until I got here,” said Hill, whose son Alex is an LHS senior. “I thought I would get some smaller things, but the septic work has been on my to-do list for a while, so I took the hint. ... Plus, I’m so happy about giving this money to the project.”

The auction for Project Graduation, which raised $13,566 on Saturday, has its roots in a post-commencement party that the Lebanon Police Department hosted in 1988, as part of its D.A.R.E program to steer youngsters away from alcohol and drugs.

“They didn’t have an auction back then, but they did give away a car the night of the party,” Candy Hadley Swift, the 1988 graduate who’s leading this year’s fundraising effort, said on Friday while ferrying auction items to the high school from her Lebanon home. “Ever since, it’s been near and dear to my heart.”

Parents of seniors took over management of, and fundraising for, Project Graduation in the 1990s, and by 2007 the auction was netting some $15,000 a year.

After a few down years during the Great Recession, it has been raising between $12,000 and $15,000 a year over the last five, Swift said. She added that it became a mission for her in 2016, when her elder daughter, Audrey, started her senior year. And after volunteering for last year’s project, Swift took the next step of becoming chief organizer of the auction for what is now her daughter Elizabeth’s senior year — and the 30th anniversary of Swift’s.

“When I graduated, I never thought that I’d be back here doing anything like this,” Swift said. “At the time, I didn’t want to come back to Lebanon. In the end, I did to be close to family again. And it’s a great place to raise kids.”

Flanagan, a real estate agent based in Lebanon, and his wife raised five girls and two boys here, all of whom went all the way through the city’s schools.

While the youngest graduated three years ago, Flanagan said he still feels called to help with Project Graduation when time permits.

“It has always been a great program,” Flanagan said, his voice now scratchy. “When you get involved in this town, you like to stay involved if you can. That’s 84 years of education that this town has given to our children. We feel like we owe a great debt.”

Lebanon resident and former School Board member Jon Stearns keeps paying it forward almost 19 years after his daughter Emily graduated from LHS.

“I’ve bought a lot of stuff over the years,” said Stearns, who on Saturday snagged a gift certificate for a car undercoating from Kidder Automotive.

“I think our very best buy was for a year’s pass for two to the Nugget Theaters (in Hanover). We paid maybe as high as $400, and we went to a lot of movies.”

Two different buyers each spent $400 for a set of four front-row seats at the 2018 graduation ceremony, at the end of lightning-fast bidding wars. “These are priceless,” Flanagan said at the start of the contest for the second set.

At the end, he told the winning bidders, “You’re going to have a relaxing evening.”

Wherever she sits during commencement in June, Candy Swift hopes to relax still more knowing that Elizabeth, who helped display merchandise during the auction on Saturday, will be attending the all-night Project Graduation party that follows.

“The kids love it,” Swift said. “It’s their last hurrah. It’s great to have something like this for them to do. It’s a much scarier time than when I was in school. These kids are exposed to so much more at such a younger age.”

David Corriveau can be reached at dcorriveau@vnews.com and at 603-727-3304.