MONROE TWP. — Every day on his way to work, Joe Bottino used to drive past the Gloucester County 4-H Nature Preserve in Williamstown and think about the possibilities.
This weekend, the idea he dreamed about on those trips is finally coming to fruition.
All American Auctions is a company founded by Bottino, a Sicklerville resident, with help from his wife Jennifer and their children, Joe and Jillian. Affiliated with the Gloucester County 4-H Association, the auction house is located in a former barn on the Nature Preserve that now serves as an educational building.
They will host auctions there on the third Saturday of every month, with a significant portion of the proceeds going to the Nature Preserve for the upkeep of the property and to update its amenities.
“We have put a lot of work into it, the whole family,” Bottino said. “It has been a family affair along with the 4-H and a slew of extended family and close friends. It was about three months in the making to get things moving and get all the moving parts jelling together.”
Bottino noticed the barn on his commute and thought an auction would be a good way to generate funds for the Nature Preserve. He made some phone calls and eventually proposed his idea to the 4-H executive board, which loved it.
“It’s an actual auction with an auctioneer and everything,” Bottino said. “People bring their items for consignment and the auctioneer auctions them off.
“Not everybody is suited to put a yard sale out in front of their house or go to something like the Berlin (Farmer’s Market). This way it is sold for them, they get a nice portion of the money and the 4-H makes out as well.”
The funds raised will help improve the property and allow the 4-H to focus on the various events and activities it puts on throughout the year, according to MaryAnn Metz, the association’s program assistant for livestock and small animals.
“We are mainly a youth development program and we provide experiences for people to have hands-on, educational learning and to develop tools to carry them through their adult years,” Metz said. “There are lots of things the association has been working on and new ideas to have people get some appreciation for the area there in the Pinelands and the nature that is there.”
People who don’t want to sell items can also donate them and receive a tax-deductible receipt, and pick-up service can be arranged.
Saturday’s opening day will feature a preview starting at noon so prospective buyers can inspect the items up for bid. The auction, under the direction of auctioneer Daniel Cogdill Jr., begins at 4 p.m. at 3950 S. Black Horse Pike in Williamstown.
“We have appliances, paintings, all kinds of house goods, a ton of furniture, a lot of tools and Christmas decorations,” Bottino said. “It’s really a huge array of items.”
“You never know — there might be that diamond in there that someone has been looking for, some kind of collectible,” Metz added. “Auctions are a fantastic way for people who have a limited income to find something they need, or for a first-time homeowner or renter who needs a piece of furniture or an appliance. It’s a fantastic opportunity to get something reasonable.”
Metz also pointed out that the auction can be a good chance to make new friends or develop business relationships. And of course, it allows visitors to see the property and learn more about the 4-H.
“The property is beautiful,” she said. “The preserve itself backs up to 8,000 acres of the Winslow Wildlife Management Area, which is all white sand trails and is just gorgeous. It’s a really neat place.”