THE ISSUE

The 34th annual Hospice & Community Care Labor Day Auction at the Solanco Fairgrounds raised a record $760,000 this weekend, surpassing last year’s record by $20,000. Proceeds from the sale of 6,000 donated items — ranging from a Christmas trip to New York City to a bamboo pillow — went a long way toward accounting for that impressive total. Proceeds help fund the more than $1 million in charity care that Hospice & Community Care provides annually.

We will talk more about this amazing Lancaster County tradition and the thousands of volunteers, donors, bidders and sponsors who outdo themselves every year to make it such a smashing success.

But, first, let’s get to the heart of the matter, which is what Hospice & Community Care is able to do with the money it garners (more than $3.5 million in the past six years) from the Labor Day auction.

These funds, according to the auction bulletin, allow the organization to:

— Serve patients and families with inpatient hospice care.

— Cover specialized care for children and veterans.

— Defer the cost of pain and symptom medication.

— Provide grief and loss support.

— Help care for more than 500 patients daily, including many at home.

Five hundred patients every day is a lot of people. And a lot of sorrow. Those patients have families trying to come to terms with their loved one nearing life’s end — whether in a matter of days, weeks or months.

Money from the auction goes a long way toward assisting the organization in making terminally ill individuals as comfortable as possible. Anyone who’s lost a family member, friend or someone else close knows how much you want the dying person — more than anything — to not suffer unnecessarily. And toward that aim, you may hide away your grief because you want your loved one to feel as peaceful as possible.

Hospice & Community Care serves both the dying and those who will need to find a way to go on living. Its services are vital. And the funds generated by the auction really make a difference.

An anecdote that describes the event to a T and captures the wonderful generosity of auctiongoers is the sheet cake story reported by LNP’s Ad Crable.

The cake, with vanilla icing and the words “Hospice & Community Care” written on it in curlicue font, was first sold for $600 — and then donated back to be sold again.

That happened five more times (two people bought it twice, Crable noted), until the cake raised $6,100 total. Applause and cheers erupted when the final bidder instructed that it be eaten by hospice nurses.

So, yes, the Labor Day auction is also proof that you can help a great cause while having fun, too.

Then there are the donations. This year featured a “decked-out, shimmering black buggy,” Crable reported.

The sports auction phase is always a huge highlight as well. The 2018 event boasted a baseball autographed by Hall of Famer Hank Aaron and a Golden State Warriors jersey signed by sharp-shooting all-star guard and two-time NBA most valuable player Stephen Curry.

And then there’s the food, of course, including the much-loved shrimp fries.

More than 500 volunteers help out at the auction, Crable reported, about 100 of whom are Amish.

Hospice & Community Care President and CEO Steve Knaub told LNP’s Tim Stuhldreher that’s he’s awed every year by the community support for the auction.

The thousands who come and bid do so “from the heart,” he said.

As Crable noted, many of the attendees at this year’s event “have had their lives touched by hospice and were there to give back in some way.”

Lancaster’s Tammy Distasi, 53, was one of them.

“I think it’s the nurses,” she told LNP. “They’re dealing with death every day but they make that person feel special to the end.”

Brethren Village resident Rose Gibble, 72, whose late parents were assisted by Hospice & Community Care, donates every year and attends the auctions.

“They try to make their last week, months or year of their life good for them,” she said of the organization. “They die with dignity.”

We commend everyone who made even the smallest contribution to the 2018 Labor Day auction, and all the auctions before (including the very first, which raised $426).

You’re the reason Hospice & Community Care can offer dignity and comfort to thousands of families every year as they say that final, emotional goodbye.