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A hot commodity – More than 100 turn out for annual Wreath Raffle at Avera Holy Family

By Staff | Dec 13, 2007

ESTHERVILLE–The minute hand of the clock hadn’t quite made it to that magical time yet, but the mood in the cafeteria at Avera Holy Family Health in Estherville on Thursday was anxious.

Hospital auxiliary board president Rhonda Hansen placed her hand in the basket to maneuver the golden tickets around while awaiting women watched.

The probably more than 100 people in the room, from around the community and perhaps beyond, simply wanted the clock to strike 2:30 p.m.

The anticipation in the room in that last minute was almost exhausting.

“They’re beautiful,” Hansen said of the hot items soon to be raffled away.

Who would have known wreaths were in such great demand?

“It’s standing room only, as usual,” said Sandy Lunning, auxiliary board member and Avera employee.

And then it began.

The Avera Holy Family Health Auxiliary annual Wreath Raffle, in conjunction with its annual coffee, on Thursday afternoon was under way and all those in attendance wanted to hear their names.


While the festivities at the auxiliary’s coffee were mostly centered on who got which wreath raffled away, there is a deeper reason to the seasonal event.

Hansen explained that funds raised throughout the year by various auxiliary events, including the holiday coffee, are used to purchase equipment or pay for services at the hospital.

The public was invited to the event, which averages about 150 people each year. The auxiliary has sponsored the coffee for at least 15 years and the wreath drawing has been an annual facet for more than five years.

“When this first started, I remember it was so small we could have the food in the cafeteria,” Lunning said. “Now there’s so many that the food is in the hallway.”

She said funds raised from Thursday’s event will go to the purchase of a flat screen bulletin board for the hospital waiting room to post all hospital announcements where people can easily access them.

The event was organized and hosted by the eight-member auxiliary board and auxiliary members.

Lunning said the group has about 120 members total from about a 20-mile radius of the hospital–as far east as Armstrong, as far north as Sherburn, Minn., and as far south as Graettinger.

There are two levels of auxiliary membership and anyone can become a part of the group.

The first is active, which requires a $5 annual due and the commitment to help with at least one auxiliary event. Lunning said many help with more than one.

People also can be inactive members for $10 annually, which means you don’t have to help at an event, but Lunning said many do.

Membership is split nearly 50-50 for inactive and active members at this moment.

The holiday coffee and Wreath Raffle–especially the drawing–have become signature events for the auxiliary.

And it was apparent why on Thursday.


There were 30 wreaths to raffle away, all donated from various businesses in the Estherville, Spirit Lake and Spencer areas.

Some were big, others were small. One was live and others were artificial. Still, some were crafty and others were simple.

“So they get creative,” Lunning admitted of the businesses who donate the wreaths.

And everyone had their favorite. They also had their chance to pick that favorite if their name was drawn in time.

As the wreaths were given away, a few groans were heard when a particular one was taken by one person and not another. Even comments from the gallery like “Oh, good, she didn’t take that one” were familiar sounds.

At one point, a participant reached for a wreath she was admiring and an audience member piped up with a retort.

“No, not that one,” she said.

It didn’t matter, however, if you got the wreath you wanted, one you didn’t or maybe no wreath at all.

Giving to a good cause was more important to everyone in attendance and, in the process, the crowd was treated to an entertaining time of fellowship.

Contact Nathan Christophel at (712) 362-2622 or editor@esthervilledailynews.com and visit our photo sharing Web site at cu.esthervilledailynews.com