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Auction helps Pasco food bank replenish

(ran PAS edition)

The bidding was feverish at the annual charity auction for the Pasco Food Bank on Saturday.

That was a relief to Ken Buck, executive director of the group, which serves meals to more than 21,000 people each month.

A recent break-in at the agency's thrift store on U.S. 41 was a $300 blow to the non-profit organization. Buck said the fund-raiser this weekend made up for the loss _ and then some.

"It was an amazing evening," said Buck, who is in the midst of moving the food bank from its current location to an orange grove on Ehren Cutoff. "We had a few people there trying to outbid each other _ all to the benefit of the food bank."

The auction, which included some high-priced items such as an original Disney print, raised $15,000, surpassing last year's take by about $1,500.

The event is the only fund-raiser for the food bank, which serves as a distribution center for 75 charitable groups in Pasco and Hernando counties.

A live steer drew a high bid of $500. The Disney print, a 1974 poster of Snow White, was sold for $550.

The most emotional sale of the night, Buck said, was the golden retriever that sat on the stage for most of the evening.

A proud mom and dad purchased the pup for their son for $250.

The food bank needed the extra cash this year to tile the floors and paint the walls of the new building, expected to open in August. A $350,000 federal grant paid for the site and the construction. The agency was forced to move by U.S. 41 road work.

The burglary two weeks ago was only a minor setback, Buck said. The thieves didn't touch any of the items for sale in the thrift store.

Instead, they went right to a money box kept inside the store's locked office. Inside were a day's receipts and petty cash _ a total of about $300.

Buck said he fears the heist was an inside job because the burglar knew precisely where the money was kept. Sheriff's deputies found no fingerprints so an arrest is not likely.

"The person who took it is obviously not a charitable person," Buck said. "We have a fairly good idea who the culprit may be, but we can't prove it."

Buck said the agency, which expects to handle at least 1-million pounds of food this year, will rebound from the loss.

"Three hundred dollars turns into a lot of food that we could've given out," he said. "But this won't hurt our plans, especially since the auction was such a success."