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Charity auction Wednesday at UMD

Whether you just want to feel like a kid -- picking up a baseball bat signed by Hall of Famer and former Twin Kirby Puckett -- or you want to help kids in need, an auction on Wednesday might be just what floats your boat.

Whether you just want to feel like a kid -- picking up a baseball bat signed by Hall of Famer and former Twin Kirby Puckett -- or you want to help kids in need, an auction on Wednesday might be just what floats your boat.

In fact, if floating boats float your boat, a full-day guided fishing trip may whet your appetite.

The cause, along with those items and many others, come together Wednesday evening, as the Bethany Crisis Nursery hosts its third annual "Take Time for Kids" live and silent auction at UMD's Marshall Performing Arts Center, starting at 7 p.m.

The Bethany Crisis Nursery (BCN) under the umbrella of Lutheran Social Services, provides a 24-hour crisis line for parents and offers emergency day care for families in crisis.

Lynn Shubitz, the nursery's program manager, said the organization defines crisis broadly. This includes families which are homeless and cases where jobs are lost or sudden changes in day care arrangements jeopardize education or employment. Other crisis situations include medical emergencies, divorce, domestic violence and mental illness among parents.

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A recent issue of the organization's newsletter highlights one crisis: A couple with five children and one on the way had moved to Duluth but was homeless and staying in a local shelter. BCN pitched in with day care when the mother had hospital appointments over complications with the pregnancy and later while the couple looked for permanent housing. The assistance helped: The family now has a healthy baby, permanent housing and two part-time incomes.

The day care is short term -- 24-hour day care can be provided for up to 72 hours if necessary, and for a longer period of time for daytime hours.

Shubitz said BCN is part of a large network of organizations that provide assistance. Typically it provides referrals to other places even when it provides some assistance.

"We're a very program-rich community," Shubitz said.

Shubitz said scaled back budgets at the state and federal levels are hurting nonprofits in the social services sector. BCN operates off grants from the county, state, United Way and others, plus donations from the community. The auction, which comes with a $10 per person entry fee, is the group's only fund-raiser.

"And the bottom line is it helps children, who are the most vulnerable people," she said.

The evening starts off with a silent auction, followed by a live auction. Renegade Comedy Theatre provides entertainment, and light refreshments are served.

Kathy Sullivan, a volunteer who has worked on the auction for three years, said they try to improve it every year. She said that while many organizations hold fund-raising events and call for community support, this one matches her own interest in children.

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"This one's for kids who are in need and they're going through some hard times," she said.

One of the innovative auction offerings she cited is a chance to be a behind-the-scenes zookeeper, following a professional zookeeper around for a day at the Lake Superior Zoo.

Other neat items include a hockey stick signed by the UMD women's national championship team, a champagne brunch, a floatplane ride, car-cleaning kits, gardening advice and stays at several area resorts -- plus dozens of other things designed to offer something for everyone.

BCN is also looking for volunteers.

The BCN crisis line is 626-3083. For more information on the auction or on volunteering, call 626-1901, ext. 32.

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