WINCHESTER- Even in its 42nd year, the annual doll auction held to benefit the Henry and Williams Evans Home for Children continues to hold a special place in the hearts of those who coordinate and support the fundraiser.
"It's a tradition that many people look forward to," said Winchester City Mayor Elizabeth A. Minor, the event's chair.
This year, 24 one-of-a-kind dolls will be available to bid on when the auction begins at 2:30 p.m. Sunday at the Lloyd House, an alumni house next to the Evans Home on East Leicester Street. A 2 p.m. reception will precede the auction.
"It's a worthy cause," said Minor, who serves on the Evans Home Board of Directors. "I think people do open their hearts."
All proceeds from the annual event go back to the Home, which provides an alternative environment for children who cannot live with their families and who would not thrive in a foster or adoptive family.
As of last week, 13 kids were living at the residence, said Collette Hawes, the home's administrative assistant, who helps to coordinate the auction.
Organizers hope that auctioneer Ray Kaderli of Results Auction on North Loudoun Street will help them raise between $10,000 and $12,000 Sunday to help those children who rely on the Evans Home for supportive and nurturing care.
"It's important," Minor said. "It's wonderful that they have that home."
The doll dressers, some who live as far away as New York, have contributed their time and craftiness to assure that the Evans Home reaches its fundraising goal.
BB&T donated the porcelain and vinyl doll forms, which the ladies transformed into a young girl celebrating her first Kwanzaa, a caroling couple, and two toddlers dressed in John Deere tractor apparel among the other handmade designs. Two of the dolls are even dressed for Apple Blossom.
"I have a huge admiration for all of it, because I can't do it," Hawes said. Many of the dressers have been preparing dolls for the auction for years, and despite age having caught up with some of the ladies, their work is still impressive. Both Hawes and Minor - neither of who are sewers - have a great appreciation of the time and effort the volunteers put into creating the unique dolls."They do such beautiful work," Minor said. Several of the ladies dress multiple dolls, but with the number of decorators having decreased from between 10 and 15 in previous years down to eight, Hawes said she is on the lookout for new dressers. "We're trying to appeal to new people to take an interest in dressing dolls," she said.
Twelve new dolls will be up for for sale Sunday, along with 12 dolls from the collection of the late Lorene Russell, a Winchester resident and long-time friend and supporter of the doll auction and Evans Home. The dolls - winners in the auction's yearly judging contest - have been donated back to the home for the fundraiser. "She had a great eye for what was beautiful," Hawes said, noting that Russell attended the auction for 20 years. Like Russell, many of the event's supporters have become regulars at the auction throughout the years.
"It's a fun, nice, family way to spend the Sunday," Hawes said. She, along with Minor, encourage everyone in the community to come take a look at the creations. "They're different but very nice," Minor said about the dolls, many who come with their own baby-doll size personalities. The dressers give their dolls names, and many also submit a synopsis of the work that went into making the doll or a story to accompany their creation. "It's really sweet the write up the ladies do for their dolls," Hawes said.
But the event's organizers are not the only ones to take note of the decorators' originality.
In keeping with the tradition of the annual auction, the dolls were judged last week at the Evans Home by a group of anonymous judges, who chose their favorites from categories including baby dolls, character and nationality dolls, "fancy and frilly" dolls, and those that are "plain and sensible."
Winchester resident Betsy Sibert, the first-place winner in the "fancy and frilly" category, took the overall grand prize for her Miss Apple Blossom doll. The brunette doll is dressed in pink and green from head to toe, and accessorized with a pink bonnet, handbag, and apple blossoms in her right hand to match her floral dress.
The public may get a sneak peek of Miss Apple Blossom and all of the dolls up for auction while they are on display this week at several of Winchester's downtown businesses. "We're trying to get them out to bring awareness," Hawes said.
Hottel and Willis, P.C. on North Braddock Street and Bell's Fine Clothing on the Loudoun Street Mall are among the locations where the dolls can be seen. The dolls are available on the nonprofit's Facebook page. And for those who are interested in purchasing a doll, but are unable to attend the auction, bids will be accepted at evanshome.org until midnight Saturday.
"We're hoping for more online action," Hawes said. Online bidders will have a chance to up their purchase price during the auction, should they be outbid by those in attendance.
Minor said it isn't uncommon for the bidders to already have a spot picked out or a recipient in mind for the doll they wish to take home with them. They look forward to the auction just as much as the charity looks forward to hosting the event, one of its three main fundraisers of the year. "It really is a tradition for the Evans Home," Minor said.