SENECA — Eight years ago, Jim Graham couldn’t sleep.

SENECA — Eight years ago, Jim Graham couldn’t sleep.

So the Seneca farmer, cattleman and auctioneer decided to read the local newspaper. In it, he found a story that not only made a difference in his life, but in the lives of countless area residents.

That story detailed the plight of the Seneca Food Pantry, which was in dire need of food donations. An accompanying photograph showed the pantry’s barren shelves.

“He woke me up and told me about it and said ‘I think I got a way we can make them some money so they can buy food,’ ” recalled his wife, Martha.

The idea was to hold a hay auction, with all of the proceeds going to the pantry to purchase canned goods and other non-perishables to help needy families.

“Jim remembered as a child that they never went to bed hungry,” Martha Graham said. “Sometimes, what we had was an old cold biscuit, but we never went hungry.”

The couple, along with their daughter, Michelle Vanderpool, son-in-law, Nick Vanderpool, and Russ and Kathy Ginger — who wrote the original article in the Seneca News-Dispatch — organized the inaugural hay auction in just two weeks, and collected $6,000 for the food pantry.

The eighth annual event will be held Saturday at the Seneca Rodeo Grounds, located at Highway 10 and Bethel Road in Seneca. It will begin with a barbecue of hamburgers and hotdogs at 4 p.m., followed by the hay auction at 6 p.m. with a pie, cake and merchandise auction immediately following. The Farmers Feeding Neighbors Hay Auction will be held rain or shine.

The event has grown since then, collecting between $15,000 and $16,000 in recent years, the Grahams said. And this year looks to be one of the best, Jim Graham said.

“We will have well over 200 of the big round bales, a lot of big square bales, and other stuff,” Jim Graham said.

Martha Graham said the benefit has amassed lots of pies and cakes for the baked goods auction, and she has been busy this week picking up merchandise and cash donations from Seneca businesses.

“Everybody has been really generous,” she said. “It’s just amazing: this little town gives and gives, and then gives some more.”

Auction items include a hand-made cedar rocking chair; a high-powered BB gun; a low powered BB guns; and two other BB guns — one brown, the other pink — from Daisy Manufacturing in Arkansas.

“You never know for sure what we’re gong to have until the last day,” Martha Graham said. “We have been really pleased.”

Martha Graham said there was still time to donate hay, baked goods, or merchandise to the auction. To do so, please call the Grahams at (417) 776-3172.

Additionally, Seneca High School FFA students will be on hand to serve food and help with the event. A large tent will be set up for the barbecue, and those going are asked to bring lawn chairs. The barbecue, and admission to the event, is free, but donations are welcome.

Martha Graham said she expects a large crowd.

“It seems the Fourth of July used to be when people got together,” she said. “Now, people look forward to the hay auction so they can see folks they haven’t seen in a long time.”

All proceeds will go to the food pantry, which provides food to 90 to 115 families a month.