Back in December, Meg Rothstein was in her pajamas scrolling through Facebook and Twitter when she noticed several people posting about local and state budget cuts to the Dane County Rape Crisis Center.
The center is a non-profit organization that provides victims of sexual assault with medical and legal resources, as well as support and counseling. The agency also promotes prevention through outreach in the schools.
Rothstein, a librarian by training, is neither a volunteer nor an employee of the center. But she knew what it would mean to sexual assault victims individually and the community as a whole if the agency had to absorb a 40% budget cut (After a public outcry, state lawmakers restored some funding and the center now faces a 30% reduction).
In this political and economic climate, Rothstein says, it's easy to feel "both energized [and] helpless." Rothstein took the former route, contacting everyone who had posted online about the budget cuts. Together they started brainstorming ways to help the ailing center. Rothstein became acquainted with Amy Carani, a graphic designer she still has yet to meet, and by February the group had created a template for A Spark for RCC!, an online auction.
When the center's director, Kelly Anderson, heard about this grassroots attempt to save the center, she was stunned. "Meg came to us and said 'I'd like to help [and] I'll do all the work!" Anderson recalls, still a bit overwhelmed by her good luck.
Long-time supporters of the center and new friends donated what goods or services they had to offer, whether it was a quilt or massage.
Carani decided celebrity memorabilia was essential to any auction. She was in touch with Chicago radio personality "Elton" Jim Turano, Elton John's number one fan, who gave Carani contact information for John's inner circle. "They did not have [concert] tickets, but had the beautiful vintage Versace silk shirt and scarf instead," says Carani. Bidding on the scarf exceeded $400 as of April 25. Other music memorabilia in the auction includes Elton John's Versace shirt, a tour poster donated and signed by members of Wilco, and signed copies of a Cheap Trick CD and photo.
Meanwhile, Rothstein contacted local officials and celebrities to see if they would be willing to donate some of their time: Rep. Peter Barca (dinner at the Concourse) and Rep. Helen Roys (brunch and drinks!) answered the call.
The current highest bid in the auction is for an electric scooter, or E-Bike, at over $500. Other items include horseback riding lessons, gift certificates to local watering holes and restaurants and two Club Level seats for a Milwaukee Brewers game.
The entire effort, says Rothstein, "wouldn't be possible without social media."
The auction closes at noon on Monday, April 30.