Winchester — Little did Henry and William Evans know that when their legacy helped to establish the Evans Home for Children in 1949, dolls would play a large part in sustaining their vision.
A 12-member board of directors, Stephen Shendow is the chairman, oversees the nonprofit establishment.
“These children were not dealt a good hand — a hand dealt not of their choosing — we strive to help them become productive, self-confident adults,” Marc Jaccard, in his 10th year as executive director, said.
On Sunday, the 40th annual auction of dolls will be held at the Lloyd Alumni House of the Evans Home. Ray Kaderli will reprise his role as auctioneer for the second year.
For 12 years, Mayor Elizabeth Minor, who serves on the board, has been part of the auction. This year marks her eighth year as the event chairman.
“The auction has been held for so many years now that it has a life of its own,” she said. “It’s wonderful the auction is going to be back on home ground — we want the public to see the Alumni House if they haven’t done so.”
To be surrounded by supporters and the beautiful, lovingly prepared dolls shows how much this community loves children, Minor said. “At the end of the auction, we realize just how much we have to be thankful for.”
Doll dresses from far and near
Women from the area and from as far away as Lansing, N.Y., help to dress the dolls for the event, Jaccard added.
“Those New York ladies call themselves the ‘Lansing Dolly Mamas,’ and our local ladies have come through for us year after year,” he said. “We get a couple of new folks to help, too.”
The nearly three dozen dolls are initially purchased by BB&T bank and then distributed by the Evans Home to volunteers who dress them. Some dolls are vinyl, the kind likely to be played with by children, while the porcelain dolls are usually purchased by collectors. Many of the porcelain dolls are from Cathay, a company popular with collectors. Some others are Madame Alexander dolls.
Winning bidders at the auction get not only the doll in her new handmade outfit, but also receive the costume the doll wore when it was purchased. The “dressers” — as the volunteers are referred to at the Evans Home — select their doll, imagine a concept, sketch designs, sometimes make patterns, and then create outfits for the dolls of their choice. “There’s quite a nice variety of collectibles and each will be ‘one of a kind’ after our dressers finish them,” said Collette Hawes, Evans Home administrative assistant.
“All the dolls are dressed by ladies, but we would welcome any man who would like to participate,” said Hawes, who takes photos of each newly outfitted doll before they go on display in downtown Winchester prior to the auction.
Dolls on display
Through Friday, the dolls will stand in the windows of Bell’s and Bruce Renner & Wilfong PLC on the Loudoun Street Mall and at SusQtech in the Kurtz Building on Cameron Street.
Before their move to the businesses’ windows, the dolls are judged in categories, such as historical, character, nationality, fancy and frilly, and baby dolls. First, second, and third places in each of the categories are awarded; the doll judged most outstanding earns the title “grand doll.”
A new effort was added to the fundraiser this year. One Cathay doll, dressed in a blue velvet female pirate outfit, was posted on eBay in early November. Dresser Judy Omsler completed her handiwork early for a “trial run” to determine whether the online concept would add income above that raised by the live auction.
Omsler’s doll, based on the children’s book “Alphabet, of the Princess Poppets” series, brought $50 online.
Variety of personalities
The dolls and their dressers show a wide range of personalities. Marion Snyder’s Patsy Cline doll comes with a microphone, red fingernails, and a Winchester Drive-In backdrop.
Madame Amorette, Betsy Sibert’s contribution, is a fancy French doll dressed in black with white detailing.
A Civil War-era woman and her soldier, by Viola Palmer, show period details: mustache and sword for him and locket and lace-trimmed petticoat for her.
Frances Lee has dressed a pair of “Nifty 50” James Wood Cheerleaders.
A first-time designer is Frances Miller, recruited to the cause by board member and Winchester Sheriff Lenny Millholland. Her blonde doll’s old-fashioned attire is a full-length pink outfit with hat to match.
One special doll from the past has been framed and stays on display at the Evans Home. Dressed in 1991 by Beatrice Lanham when she was 101 years old, the doll is symbolic of the care with which the dressers work and their willingness to contribute over the past years.
“The children who live at the Evans Home take pride in such a treasure,” Jaccard said. “As they learn to allow adults to show love and to care for them, they also learn respect for personal property and respect for themselves.”
The Alumni House
The doll auction is not only for doll collectors, holiday shoppers, and families to make purchases, but it is also a chance for the public to see the Evans Home environment at the Alumni House named in honor of Kirby Lloyd, former director.
“We are back on home turf and Kirby is an institution around here,” Jaccard said. The separate house is a “home away from home for those who are 18 and older — those who are starting out in the workplace or higher education and no longer of age to be in the Evans Home, where children can be as young as 5.”
Lloyd, director from 1978 to 1999, said, “I am honored that the Alumni House has my name on the door. Slowly but surely, through the help of the community, the Evans Home children are now part of the public consciousness.”
John Williams, BB&T regional president, said the bank is pleased to continue to support the auction.
“One of our missions is to make our communities better places to live . . . [and] the Evans Home achieves that mission every day, by changing the lives of so many young people and giving them the opportunity to learn, grow, and be fulfilled.”
Forty years with an average of 25 dolls per year adds up to a lot of dolls. About a thousand Evans Home dolls “dressed with love have been sold to help us . . . it’s wonderful to watch the dressers look at the dolls and see potential and new directions for them,” said Hawes.
Jaccard compared this to the mission of the home — “see potential in our children that no one could imagine — not even the children themselves.”
The 40th annual Evans Home Doll Auction is scheduled Sunday at the home’s Lloyd Alumni House at 325 E. Cork St. A pre-auction reception begins at 2 p.m. with the live auction at 2:30 p.m. Proceeds of the auction will benefit the 501(c)(3) nonprofit William and Henry Evans Home for Children. The event is free and open to the public.