On Saturday, July 27, The Ellen Hermanson Foundation will host its An Evening of Enchantment, honoring BNB Bank and Senator Kenneth P. LaValle, at Topping Rose House in Bridgehampton.
The soiree will feature an evening of cuisine by Jean-Georges, entertainment by Broadway star Samantha Massell, and a riveting live auction with Lucas Hunt of HUNT Auctioneers, who we recently caught up with.
You’ve lent your auctioneering talents to Stony Brook Southampton Hospital’s Coalition for Women’s Cancers at the beginning of your career and now The Ellen Hermanson Foundation, which supports the Ellen Hermanson Breast Center at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital. Why were these causes you wanted to champion?
LH: This cause is especially dear to my heart for two reasons. One, because it is the very first cause I’ve ever served as a benefit auctioneer. Seven and a half years ago, I had the great fortune of performing at their Bra Auction and helping to raise money for Southampton Hospital and the Coalition for Women’s Cancers. So it’s sentimental for that reason because they gave me my first opportunity at a career that I’ve now become very successful at, and that brings me a lot of joy. That’s the first part. The second part is breast cancer and cancers related to women in general. I grew up in a small town in Iowa. My best friend’s mother was also my mother’s best friend. She suffered from breast cancer, which ultimately took her life and so when I am fundraising for an organization, I’m always looking for the why, you know, why are we raising money? How can this impact lives? Who can this help? I think about my mother’s best friend, Nancy, my best friend Amber’s mom. I know how important early detection can be and I know how terrible it is for families to lose loved ones.
HUNT Auctioneers’ mission is to help non-profit organizations serve others. Tell me a bit about why you decided to focus on the non-profit sector?
LH: As a poet, I always sought to use my voice to give voice and represent those who do not necessarily have a voice or voices that are marginalized or not heard from. With serving nonprofit organizations, there are a lot of people who we don’t know what they’re going through. And there are these great organizations and volunteers that stand up and say, look, this is real. We need your help and without your help people are going to lose their lives. So, in that case, for me, it was a call to help others not just with my voice as a writer, but with my voice at the fundraiser, to connect the dots between giving others a voice who don’t have a voice and letting people in the room, give them a chance to listen to that voice. It’s a great honor for me every night and it’s a great honor to get to speak for people whose stories are really hard sometimes, but whose inspiration is so great and I guess really think about others when they’re going through the things that they’re going through. I think our core values at HUNT Auctioneers are connected to compassion, and gratitude, and imagination, and really just trying to imagine a better world and how we can help others.
You mentioned earlier that your auctioneering career actually began in the Hamptons. Could you speak a bit about that?
LH: Almost eight years ago, I was working at a literary agency and my friend Vicki Durand was on the board of the Coalition. She had seen me read poetry and she called me up one night, and said, “Hey Lucas, are you doing anything tomorrow night?” And I said, “No. What’s happening?” She said, “I have a women’s group. We get together every once in a while, and I think you’d be a great fit.” I thought oh, she wants me to read some poetry. I said, “Well, what do you have in mind. And she mentioned that there were going to be a group of people there. And then there are going to be some artists, and some women who were breast cancer, survivors, and some models who are going to be wearing bras. And that all I had to do is get on stage and point at the bras and say a number and then someone in the crowd would raise their hand and say a higher number. I asked, “Vicki, are you asking me to auction bras on models live off the stage?” She said, “Yes, can you do it?”
That was kind of a call to action for me there because that’s where two things rang true. Can I perform at an auction? Yes, I grew up immersed in auction as a boy in Iowa. But the second thing, which I mentioned before, was really like, can you stand up there and ask people to donate for cancer research for early detection? And that’s when I thought about Nancy and I thought not only can I, but I have to.
So that was the beginning. And for me, it was not really a question of working in a commercial field. I studied with Christie’s and Sotheby’s, I went to auction college. I always knew I was going to choose to work in the nonprofit and benefits. I think, again, because of that connection between the philanthropy, the values, the ideas, life transformation, you know, really thinking like, we can help other people with our awareness and with our gifts. We all have something to give.
In addition to the Foundation, what are some of the other causes you support?
LH: I work with the Bowery Mission in New York City, they help the homeless, also, Services for the Underserved, another organization that works with homeless, but it’s not just about hunger and shelter, it’s actually teaching life skills and providing career opportunities so that the root causes of homelessness are addressed. And sometimes that means working with organizations that help mental illness, I work with an organization called the Doe Fund, and they work with formerly incarcerated men and women to help them reintegrate into society. The American Cancer Society. But I also work with a lot of theaters, museums, cultural institutions, colleges, charter schools, horse rescue farms. I tend to gravitate more and more to the people really in need, the people who need it the most. So addressing issues of food insecurity, housing, immigrant rights. Again, that whole idea of whose voice is not being heard? Who’s being ignored, who’s not being listened to in our democratic society? How can we help amplify their voices and really just serve as a conduit?
Do you have a goal set for this year’s An Evening of Enchantment benefit?
LH: To get everyone in the room to give as much as they can. First and foremost, to connect – to connect with people, to connect the cause with why we’re going to be there. As I’m standing on the stage looking out at people, they’re looking back at me, I’ll be thinking about children and parents and their lives really being ripped apart, but the opportunity to help and make their hardest hours a little bit easier, a little bit more comfortable. I really just try to inspire everyone to give what they can, give as much as they can in that moment. That usually breaks the goal.
What are some of the fabulous prizes you’ll be auctioning off?
LH: Everything will be priceless.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
LH: I just published poetry called Hamptons. I studied journalism and wrote for a daily newspaper when I was coming up. I studied at Southampton College, writing. This summer, I published my second book of poetry called Hamptons, and it’s at the bookstores and in the shops. It’s fun and there’s a crashing a benefit poem in there called Benefit Crashers. I think without poetry, I wouldn’t have had the sensitivity or idea to be empathetic and compassionate really, just like in philanthropy.
Tickets to An Evening of Enchantment start at $600.
For more information, visit www.ellenhermanson.org.