Who knew that a little bit of meat, cheese, bread and veggies could turn into such a wonderful gift for graduating students who are continuing their academic career as they pursue higher education.
The 25th annual Hiland Academic Booster Club sub sandwich auction will take place Saturday, Jan. 20, following the Hiland Hawks boys basketball game versus the Triway Titans.
The public is invited to stay after the game when a variety of different sub sandwiches will be auctioned off to provide financial support for scholarships to Hiland High School graduating seniors who are planning on attending college.
The auction will feature 20 two-foot, 20 one-foot and 10 six-inch subs, and this spirited evening of supporting Hiland students has grown into a highly anticipated evening of fun.
This fundraiser materialized a quarter-century ago when the booster club realized it had to create a larger base of funds to support the growing number of students who were attending college.
“Basically we had an academic booster club meeting, and we were searching for an idea of how we could do more scholarships,” said Gary Sterrett, who was the Hiland High and Middle School principal at the time. “We had more and more kids going to college, and we hadn’t given enough.”
Local business woman Karen Lamp, owner of Country Craft Cupboard, began discussing options with Jim Gray, owner of Uncle Burt’s. Together they hatched the idea of the sub sandwich auction.
“Jim did a tremendous amount of work to get it started,” Sterrett said. “He got everything donated, and the first auction we ever held was in the old gym.”
Lamp and a host of other Berlin Main Street Merchants volunteers met in the high school cafeteria that year and made all of the foot-long sandwiches for the event.
“Everyone talks about the good old days, but let me tell you, those good old days when we started this were not the good old days,” Lamp said. “When we started this, we had 40 two-foot subs, and we had no idea what kind of reaction we would get. It was a lot of work.”
While the process today is quite streamlined, back then it was a chore because they had to lug the wrapping machine and all of the ingredients in large crates including meat, cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, onions and bags of condiments. Lamp said she remembers spending all afternoon in the cafeteria, laying out ingredients and chopping onions until they were all crying. Other volunteers sliced tomatoes, weighed out the meat, chopped lettuce and did whatever it took to build 40 two-foot-long sub sandwiches.
“I remember thinking that if we got $10 for these subs, we were not going to be happy,” Lamp said with a laugh.
The sub auction took off immediately as local business owners and individuals heartily jumped into the bidding process and volunteer auctioneers from Kaufman Realty and Auction made the spirited bidding process part of the joy of the event.
Sterrett said he remembers fondly how different area business people always get into bidding wars to make sure each sandwich brings a good amount of money.
“We have a number of area businesses who have been so supportive from the beginning, and those businesses keep coming back year after year to support our kids through this auction,” Sterrett said.
From year one the auction has taken place after one of the Hiland Hawks boys basketball games, and over the years there have been more than a few people from opposing teams who have thought about staying and bidding on a sandwich, only to realize that these were no $5 foot-longs.
“I remember the first year we played Hiland on the night of the auction, and we decided we’d hang around and bid on one,” said Bob Beamer, whose children attended Tuscarawas Central Catholic. “I think the first sub went for $1,100, and we were like, OK, maybe not.”
That sub would have been one of the Malone University subs, usually the first sub purchased out of the gate each year. A group of former Malone University graduates go together to purchase that first sub. While that price is an anomaly, the prices for the two-footers usually settle in around $300-$500. The smaller subs range anywhere from $250 down to around $75 to $100, so the auction has been able to generate upward of $10,000 annually for the booster club.
While those early years of creating the subs were a chore, in recent years the booster club and Main Street Merchants group have teamed up with Walnut Creek Cheese, and that has made the process much easier.
According to Jerry Shoup of Walnut Creek Cheese, they make all of the bread fresh in-house and provide all of the fresh ingredients already chopped, sliced and diced, ready to be assembled. Volunteers now have a much easier time assembling the sandwiches.
“Our employees go above and beyond in making it as simple as possible to assemble the sandwiches before game time,” Shoup said. “They even separate the meat for each sub so it is individually packaged. For those of us who make the sandwiches, it has made it pretty simple.”
Over the past 20 years the sub auction has remained pretty much the same since day one. Shoup said the biggest change other than the assembly process has been the shape of the subs themselves.
The two-foot subs formerly came in 24-inch long buns, but Walnut Creek Cheese had the idea of baking their bread into wreaths, thus making a much more impressive looking sandwich, and one that is a bit easier to handle and makes for a nicer presentation.
Shoup said when the booster club approached Walnut Creek Cheese about getting involved with the scholarship many years ago, owner Mark Coblentz had no problem diving right into the fundraiser.
“We love being involved in the community, and the scholarships are for the school, so this is all for them,” Shoup said. “They are the ones going out to school and coming back into the community to become community leaders. And it’s not just us. There are a lot of local businesses who have gotten behind this and made it successful. It has been a real community fundraiser. It’s a lot of fun to be involved with because we see so many groups coming together to team up and work together to make it happen.”
Each year the event is spearheaded by Jerry Shoup’s wife Ruby, who makes sure everything is in place and ready to go come auction night.
Lamp said the partnerships that are built and the relationships that form through volunteering for this event are ones that have grown and blossomed over the years. She said that has been a nice byproduct of the sub auction, and she invited anyone who wishes to be a part of something special to come and help assemble the subs on the evening of the auction.
Since the sub auction began, the number of scholarships the booster club has been able to present has grown from a dozen to 28 last year, and they have given away as many as 34 scholarships in 2013. Each scholarship presented is $1,000.
Whether it is building these delicious sandwiches or bidding on them, the Hiland Academic Booster Club welcomes all to come and enjoy this fun and important night.