Since the first Hunger and Homelessness Auction was held 20 years ago, what began as an afternoon event in Harkness Auditorium, where faculty auctioneers raised money for local charities, has expanded to include educational events, dinner, and a football game between first-year and second-year students. That first auction in 1994, which had only two tables for a silent auction, raised $3,500. Over the years the auction moved to Marigolds and became an evening affair. Items offered for sale, however, have remained consistent—anatomy professor Bill Stewart’s bowtie, bottles of fine wine, cruises on faculty yachts, and getaways in faculty vacation homes. For the silent auction students have offered chocolate cakes, lessons in music, language, singing, as well as in obscure arts and sports. In 2006 Wade Brubacher, a professional auctioneer and father of a first-year student, offered his services and returned four more times. His first year as auctioneer also saw a guest appearance by then-State Attorney General and current U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, J.D., who auctioned his own donation—lunch in Hartford and a tour of the state capitol.

In November, for the 20th Annual Hunger and Homelessness Auction, second-year medical students and 2012 co-chairs Amanda King, Ramak Khosravi, and Maryam Yeganegi put their own stamp on the auction. They cut expenses by relying on donations and volunteers, including faculty auctioneers Jim Abrahams, Michael Ditillo, Jack Hughes, Michael O’Brien, Chris Russer, and Stewart. At the live auction in Marigolds, bids from students and faculty—for items including a faculty v. students softball game, gourmet dinners, and tickets to a Red Sox game—raised $27,000, and the organizers are taking a new approach to disbursing the funds. They crafted a mission statement that shifts priorities from underwriting operating expenses for local charities to supporting community-focused initiatives that address unmet social needs. “We really wanted to see a direct benefit from the funds we were giving them, not just a supplement,” said King. “We wanted to give grants for new initiatives or expansion of a program, as opposed to continuing operations.”

Based on the applications, the auction organizers awarded funds to four community organizations. The New Haven Community Soup Kitchen will add to its food budget, which is expected to increase by 21 percent over previous years. Liberty Community Services’ Safe Haven Day Program will fund a “Road to Recovery” program for clients struggling with addiction. The funding will pay for seminars that focus on recovery, and will also provide clothing and transportation to program participants who are ready to look for work, and pay for backpacks with underwear, socks, a hat, scarf, gloves, and personal hygiene items. Continuum of Care Inc. will use the funding to transition 10 chronically homeless people with complex behavioral health needs from shelters to permanent housing. And the Yale Community Health Care Van will provide evening services for female sex workers who are hard to reach during traditional hours of operation.