The club hit the jackpot with a generous community, one willing to join in the fun during its first ever virtual Rotary Holiday Auction, raising $28,400, after expenses. 

The Rotary Club of Ludington was facing a year of no income beyond dues, hedging all bets on its annual Rotary Holiday Auction, online for the first time due to COVID-19. 


The club hit the jackpot with a generous community, one willing to join in the fun, even virtually, raising $28,400, after expenses. 


The money will help the club continue supporting programs for local students, paying for upgrades to Rotary Park and more. 


The event even featured a bonus, called Bidding and a Bite, in which auction site visitors purchased meals from local restaurants. Bidding and a Bite meant more than $1,000 in income for four participating eateries, Hungry Howie’s, Ludington Bay Brewing Co., Jamesport Brewing Co. and House of Flavors. 


Typically, the auction is a sold-out affair at Lincoln Hills Golf Club. The meal component was a way to help auction attendees make a night of it with a takeout dinner to go with their bidding, and help local businesses that need a boost during the pandemic. 


2020 auction income is so good, it’s even close to the record 2019 event, a pleasant surprise to the club’s Auction Committee. 


The club was not able to make money selling elephant ears this year as club members typically do at the Gus Macker 3-on-3 Charity Basketball Tournament and arts and crafts fairs at Rotary Park since those large gatherings were canceled. 


“We are thrilled with the success of this year’s event, and very much appreciate the support of all of our donors and auction patrons,” said Dale Horowski, the club’s Auction Committee chair. “We look forward to next year’s event on Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021. We will decide in summer whether we will have an in-person event, virtual event, or some type of hybrid event.”


Area businesses, organizations and individuals donated items from large photographic prints and furniture to experiences like dog sledding and stays at hotels near and far. In all, the auction featured 146 items, which were all purchased during the auction.


The club used a website,, to auction the treasures in time for the holidays. Some used the opportunity to shop for Christmas. 


Mary Lou Ohnsman was grateful for the opportunity to find unique experiences. 


“Words can't express the joy and fun we have had in the past couple of days due to your auction,” she said. “The headline story in the Ludington Daily News caught our attention and launched the fun. When I saw the words ‘dog sled ride,’ my heart raced! Long story short, my husband's Christmas gift this year will be the airplane ride over Ludington. My Christmas gift will be a dog sled ride in the U.P.”

She also enjoyed the live portion of the event broadcast on the auction website. 


“Your enthusiasm was appreciated as well as the information you provided about what Rotary does in the community,” she said. “The mention of businesses already hit hard by the past months stepping up to the plate to sponsor and/or donate was good news.”


Ohnsman said it was “pure joy” to see good come from some of the challenges of 2020. 


“People have been forced to get creative,” she said. “The Ludington Rotary stepped up to the plate in figuring out how to create an event that was good, great, and very memorable.” 


The auction night’s live component featured committee members James Jensen, Dale Horowski, Jac Russell, Nancy Fife and Jeff Olmstead sharing information about the event and the club. 


The club has more than 70 members, and it’s growing, with several soon-to-be members nearing induction. 


“Rotary Club of Ludington has been a part of our community since 1933, another very trying time we faced together,” said current Rotary President James Jensen.  “I am very pleased that we have been able to find a way in today’s challenging times to fund our efforts to provide Service Above Self, the motto of Rotary.”


While club members and supporters missed getting together in person, there were some advantages to the online format. 


“Love this online system, no lines to check out! Thanks for hosting,” said Cottage Works owner Julie VanDyke, a regular auction attendee whose business donated store merchandise to the auction. 


Income came largely from auction bidding as well as sponsorships, but some did give straight donations, nearing $2,000, with donations continuing to be accepted at the auction website. 


Sponsors for the 2020 auction were West Shore Bank, Safety Decals, Safe Harbor Credit Union, Shelby State Bank, Metalworks, House of Flavors, and Country Vet Clinic.


Jensen added, “We value the partnerships we have established with these sponsors over the years and we are grateful for their continuing support.”


All items have been distributed, thanks in large part to committee member Jac Russell, whose office at Greenridge Realty served as item inventory central. 


Auction committee members are Dale Horowski, James Jensen, Jac Russell, Carlos Alvarado, Michelle King, Julee Sarto, Nancy Fife, Bob Sasin, Kathy Bromley, Jeff Olmstead, Kim Johnson, Tom Lane, Tom Calabretta, Patti Klevorn and, new to the group, Patti Skinner. 


Rotary Club of Ludington projects include high school mentoring through the STRIVE program, distribution of dictionaries to all area third-graders, a project with the library to bring books to students through school, scholarships, the Avenue of Flags on Ludington Avenue, Rotary Park improvements, and a Mason County Sheriff’s Office Deputy of the Year Award. 


The local club also participates in international programs, partnering with Rotary clubs around the world.