Area farmers stepped up to do what they could to help the people of Seneca, donating approximately 300 bales of hay to the Farmers Feeding Neighbors Hay Auction, held Saturday evening at the Seneca Christian Church.

Martha Graham, who along with her husband, Jim, founded the annual hay auction, said 216 bales of hay were donated as of Friday evening.

She said by the time the auction rolled around Saturday evening, that number had grown to approximately 300.

“We have really been blessed,” Graham said.

All proceeds from the seventh annual hay auction will benefit the Seneca Food Pantry, located at 1316 Cherokee Ave.

Marsha Markham, manager at the Seneca Food Pantry, said the pantry could not provide the service it does without the support of the annual auction.

“Our numbers have grown so much,” Markham said. “We’re feeding over 100 families every month now. So this means that we can buy food, and pay our rent and utilities for a year. Usually what we make on this one event pays all our bills for the year.”

Graham said the last two years’ events have raised around $18,000 each for the pantry.

While donations were collected Saturday evening, along with the bids for the bales of hay and various other auction items, Graham said money will continue to roll in after the auction.

She said organizers usually have a good idea of how much was raised about a month after the auction is held.

Graham said the turnout at Saturday evening’s event was similar to the past few years’ turnout.

“The same people keep coming and bringing others,” Graham said, describing the event as a sort of reunion for the regulars.

Among those who regularly attend are Becky King and her family.

She said they have been taking part in the auction since it started seven years ago.

“We just want to do something good to give back to the community,” King said.

While the main component of the event is the hay auction, there was much more available for attendees to take home at the end of the night.

Tables were lined with donated items, including several baked goods and quilts, auctioned off after the hay sale.

Prior to the hay auction, attendees were treated to a dinner, provided by the Methodist Church.

In total, the event had around 78 sponsors, including several area churches who donated cookies, cakes and pies to be auctioned off.

As for the hay donations, Graham said farmers came through in a big way, with most offering up multiple bales to be auctioned off.

The event had more than 25 hay contributors.

Markham noted that not all contributors and attendees are from Seneca, with people from around the area coming forward to pitch in.

And with the growing number of people depending on the pantry, that help is greatly appreciated, Markham said.

“We’ve got the greatest community in the world,” Markham said. “This is not just Seneca people, and that’s not just Seneca hay out there, it’s from all over. We’re just so blessed. This is just amazing for us and we just can’t believe how people are so generous with what they give. The people who get the food so much appreciate it. They’re very grateful.”

The Farmers Feeding Neighbors Hay Auction started seven years ago, when Jim Graham, a farmer, read in a local newspaper about the shortage of food at the Seneca pantry.

He, his wife Martha, who also volunteers with the pantry, their daughter Michelle Vanderpool, son-in-law Nick Vanderpool, and Russ and Kathy Ginger organized the first event in just two weeks.