When a Mesa millionaire donated the contents of his Red Mountain Ranch estate to Sunshine Acres Children’s Home, executive director Carol Whitworth practically fainted.
What, she wondered, would the rambling ranch for abused and neglected children do with Oriental rugs, silver-threaded antique furniture and gilt-framed mirrors?
"I took the problem to the board," she said. "How do you sell expensive items like that?"
The venerable children’s home has been quietly selling fine china, furniture and other donated collectibles for two years out of a small house on the property along Higley Road. But this recent donation threatened to overwhelm the Sunshine Acres Boutique.
Enter a group of homeowners from Las Sendas, the upscale residential community not far from the children’s home in northeast Mesa.
Led by Sandi Ciaramitaro and aided by donations from caterers and other businesses, the group will host a silent auction Friday for Sunshine Acres, featuring the millionaire’s furnishings and visits from five professional baseball players who live in the East Valley.
"Sunshine Acres is our neighbor, and we think really highly of it," Ciaramitaro said.
Finding caterers and other auction items was a snap, she said. A homebuilder donated the use of the $8 million Trailhead Members Club for both the auction and the Nov. 20 Las Sendas Christmas Boutique, which also will benefit Sunshine Acres.
"As soon as we say Sunshine Acres, the first response is, ‘What can we do for you?’ ’’ she said.
The furnishings have been appraised at nearly $100,000. Last week, items were stacked floor to ceiling in a back room of the small boutique — Oriental inlaid tables, ornate headboards and dressers, and dozens of mirrors, wall hangings and paintings.
"I don’t know how we would’ve done it" without the silent auction, Whitworth said. "We had never gotten anything this expensive before."
The millionaire’s identity was not readily made available, but officials said he and his wife live in another part of the country and used the house for vacations. The man decided to make the donation after touring Sunshine Acres.
Sunshine Acres trustee Dr. Ronald Sandler lined up the ballplayers, and will give them a tour of Sunshine Acres before Friday night’s event.
Scheduled to attend are the Diamondbacks’ Shea Hillenbrand, New York Mets pitcher Steve Trachsel, Chicago Cubs pitcher Mike Remlinger, and Reggie Sanders and Adam Hyzdu of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Autographed items and other sports memorabilia will be auctioned.
The nonprofit Sunshine Acres was founded in 1954 by Whitworth’s parents, Jim and Vera Dingman. It currently houses 65 children, accepts no public money and operates solely on unsolicited private and corporate donations.
Children live in groups of 10 in single-family homes led by house parents. They may live there as long as they wish, but must stay for at least a year and agree to abide by the home’s Christian principles and practices, including daily devotionals and Sunday services. Most children remain much longer.
The kids are unadoptable, either reuniting with their parents or remaining at the 115-acre campus until they are ready to live on their own. When they leave, they are given money, furniture, a car, a job and the assurance that they can always come "home" if they need to.
Some items available at the Silver Stockings Silent Auction to benefit Sunshine Acres Children’s Home, along with minimum bids:
• Egyptian style marble top table, $300
• French chiffonier, circa 1880, $250
• Howard Altman lithograph, 1988, $50
• French reproduction of 18th century tapestry, $400
• Louis XVI style credenza, $2,000
• Vernis Martin style vitrine, circa 1900, $2,000
• Thomas Kinkade, "The Garden of Prayer" transfer on canvas, $1,500
• Carved Victorian style giltwood mirror, $4,000
What: Silver Stockings Silent Auction benefitting Sunshine Acres Children’s Home
When: 6:30 to 9 p.m. Friday
Where: Las Sendas Trailhead Members Club, 7900 Eagle Crest Drive, Mesa
For more information: Call (480) 641-4913 to purchase tickets