Livestock Marketing Association member gathers donations for local and surrounding communities through Toys for Tots program
Overland Park, Kan. (Nov. 25, 2020) – With the holiday season upon us, stores have begun stocking the shelves with holiday dinner items, Christmas decorations, and aisles of gifts for loved ones. Though the holidays seem full of cheer and joy, the season can also cause financial strain for many families across the United States.
Franklin County Livestock Market, in Carnesville, Georgia, has seen the need to financially assist families during the holidays. But a small program that started with assisting only local families has launched into a Toys for Tots program designed to give toys to children in need across northeastern Georgia.
“We just kind of stumbled into it,” Chad Ellison, owner and general manager of Franklin County Livestock Market, said. “We’ve always raised money for those in need, especially families that live around here. Someone mentioned a Toys for Tots program, so we took it and ran with it.”
Their main fundraiser for the program is a roll-over auction cow donated by Ellison at the market’s last sale of the year. After purchase, buyers continue to donate the cow back, donating the purchase amounts to the auction’s Toys for Tots fundraiser. Franklin County Livestock Market further matches up to $5,000 of the cow’s total selling price during the roll-over auction. In addition to the support from local producers, the auction and community raise anywhere from $7,500 to $10,000 in donations every year.
“The farmers, buyers, and sellers in our area have really gotten behind it,” Ellison said. “It’s gotten a little bigger every year. The first year we started out donating $5,000, and it has gone up about $1,000 in donations every year.”
Ellison noted that many of the producers in his area do not seek recognition for their support. They simply want to donate to Toys for Tots to help provide the spirit of Christmas and holiday gifts for children in their area.
“The farmers who participate in the live auction receive a ‘thank you’ on the mic for their support,” Ellison said. “But others want to give $500 and donate without their neighbor watching.”
For the past seven years, the auction has partnered with the Georgia State Highway Patrol to distribute donations in the market’s neighboring counties. Ellison’s wife, Brandee, believes their participation in the program is more important now, with the implications relating to the ongoing pandemic.
“We love helping the kids, especially during this time of the year,” Brandee Ellison said. “I feel like more of them are going to be in need more than ever after this year, with parents losing jobs and such.”
Despite the challenges 2020 continues to bring, livestock auctions like Franklin County Livestock Market continue to find ways to support and serve their local communities, cultivating a season of thankfulness and giving.