Beth Hillmar, of Hillmar Auctions in Mercer, Pennsylvania, is usually the one out in front, using her auctioneer’s skills and salesmanship to bring the top bids — whether it’s for a household auction, a machinery sale, an auto auction, or for the 4-H and FFA youth livestock projects at several county fairs in western Pennsylvania.
An active member of the Pennsylvania Auctioneers Association, she’s quick to volunteer her services for nonprofit or benefit fundraisers. In fact, she was named the 2017 Pennsylvania Auctioneer of the Year for her work. And she’s a familiar face both in and out of the auctioneers’ circle, as she’s coached Mercer High School softball and serves as Mercer Borough Council president.
But on Saturday, April 1, Hillmar will have to let someone else take charge, as an entire community is pulling together a fundraiser on her behalf.
In December, Hillmar had semi-routine bowel resection surgery, but the recovery was complicated when her bowel perforated. In all, she spent 61 days — 61 days! — in UPMC Jameson Hospital in New Castle, and then UPMC Montefiore in Pittsburgh.
She is home in Mercer now, but scheduled for another surgery in late April, says daughter Brandie McKnight. And, depending on how the April procedure goes, Hillmar may have yet another surgery in mid-summer.
“It’s been a long winter,” McKnight said.
When you’re self-employed, an injury means you can’t work, which is why friends kicked into gear for an all-day spaghetti dinner, Chinese auction and pie sale on Saturday, April 1, from 1-7 p.m. at the Leesburg ECO Presbyterian Church, 1831 Perry Highway, Volant, located at the intersection of state Routes 208 and 19.
All proceeds will help Hillmar with her continued medical expenses and care, says Ken Brown, a neighbor who initiated the idea.
“It’s a really, really tough ordeal she’s going through,” Brown told me. “She has done a tremendous amount of charity work and a lot for the community,” he added, and that’s why it was a no-brainer for the church to organize the benefit on her behalf.
Back in the late 1990s, Katie Wilson was one of those Lawrence County 4-H’ers who benefited from Hillmar’s skill on the auction block, and has continued to witness the auctioneer’s generosity.
“She’s just an amazing person,” said Wilson, who is helping Brown organize the benefit dinner. “She just touched my heart in the way she’s always out there for the kids. She doesn’t have to be, but she does.”
During the day, there will be a pie auction every hour — lots of fellow auctioneers are lining up to do the honors — and organizers expect at least 100 pies have been donated. Area businesses and individuals have also donated dozens of baskets and gift certificates for basket drawings.
A local principal has donated his DJ services and there will be entertainment all day. 4-H club members from several counties are pitching in to help with donations or with other tasks.
Brown and Wilson’s team are preparing to feed at least 1,000, and have tents ready for an overflow crowd. Serving begins at 1 p.m. and continues until 7 p.m., and carryouts are available. Tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for children 10 and under.
Brandie says her mom is planning on being there, but they aren’t sure how long she’ll be able to stay.
If you’re not able to attend, but would like to make a monetary donation, make your checks out to the Leesburg ECO Presbyterian Church, and write “Beth Hillmar benefit” in the memo. The church address is 1831 Perry Highway, Volant, PA 16156.
Brown said he’s been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support.
“There are people that she doesn’t even know really that well, they want to help,” Brown said. “It’s the whole idea of community — that’s really something.”