LACONIA — For years, the Got Lunch! Laconia program was able to depend on a raffle of donated items from Irwin Marine in order to help pay for the distribution of free, healthy food to local children each summer.

But a raffle doesn’t work so well in a pandemic, which is why this year’s Got Lunch! fundraiser is happening as an auction.

Those who visit, then go to the events calendar, will find a link to an online auction site, where they can place their bid on one of four items: a Heron 9XT kayak; a Saranac 146 canoe; a Game Changer Pad, or; a $250 gift certificate to Irwin Marine. Place your bids soon, the auction ends at 5 p.m. on Aug. 9.

In past years, offering similar items as a raffle, the fundraiser was able to generate as much as $10,000, according to Paula Gile, associate pastor of the Laconia Congregational Church and a founder of Got Lunch! Laconia. But selling raffle tickets required asking a team of volunteers to do a lot of face-to-face work, she said. “To sell raffle tickets wouldn’t be particularly healthy.”

The money generated by the auction will go a long way. Got Lunch! gets its food from a variety of sources: fresh fruit and bread comes from local stores, fresh vegetables come from local farms, other commodities come from the NH Food Bank, and the weekly deliveries also include a voucher or dairy products redeemable at Vista Foods.

“We estimate that it costs around $130 per child, per summer, for the ten weeks of the summer,” Gile said. This year, the tenth for the Got Lunch! Laconia program, there are 525 children whose families signed up for free grocery deliveries.

Bill Irwin, general manager of Irwin Marine, said his family’s company has been a supporter from the early days of the program.

“Since the infancy of Got Lunch! we were part of it. Paula and I were friends and she asked if we would get involved, we humbly wanted to help any way we can,” Irwin said. The raffle started with a personal watercraft, and has been paddle-powered in recent years.

Irwin said he’s been eager to support the organization over the years not just because of its mission, but also because of how the all-volunteer staff approaches that goal.

“It’s great for the community, just a great cause, and the money raised goes right to the kids, which is great,” Irwin said. “There’s no other expenses. What they raise, they use to get food and distribute it to people in need, that’s why we’re a big part of it.”

“It’s a great organization and some great people run it. They’re very passionate about helping the community, there’s no a lot of fanfare, it’s just something that gets done in a very classy way,” Irwin said. “It’s a wonderful thing.”

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