Cherokee Street is one of the city’s hubs for art and nightlife — and that makes it one of the areas hit the hardest by the coronavirus pandemic.
For Lucas Hanner, that was a source of serious concern. A software engineer by day, he helped jumpstart the wildly popular Western Wear Night at the Whiskey Ring. When the pandemic shut down many local establishments, and left others running on fumes, he wanted to be proactive in helping people left without a paycheck.
“I care about a lot of people that are there. A lot of my closest friends work at Yaqui’s, the Whiskey Ring, the B-Side, Earthbound Beer,” he said on Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air. “So when this hit, I just wanted to help them out because I was scared for them and what they were going to go through with bills and living situations and groceries.”
Fortunately for Hanner, the way to help was sitting in plain sight.
“Just looking around my house, I had a bottle of whiskey, and I thought, ‘Someone would probably bid $100 on that,’” he explained. “And [I had] some Cardinals baseball memorabilia. And I thought, if I put this together, I could raise a little bit of money.”
In 24 hours, the Cherokee Virtual Silent Auctions Facebook page was born. Hanner got an immediate response.
“I posted about my idea, and immediately people said, ‘Hey, I have this [thing] you can have, a bicycle out of their basement or something.’ And then someone said, ‘Hey, I'll throw in this painting that I just finished,’” he recalled. “And it grew and grew; within that first week, I had already realized that I could send out payments to at least 20 people.”
He’s raised more than $44,000 since he began organizing the auctions in March. Originally weekly, the auctions have settled in as a monthly event, helping about 30 people a month — what Hanner calls “virtual auction stimulus packages.”
The auctions’ impact is a point of pride for the close-knit Cherokee Street community, which includes many of the area’s musicians and artists. When the silent auctions hit the $40,000 mark, Hanner said Beckie Lewis of Yaqui’s on Cherokee Street posted, “I think our street is more functional than our government.”
The page’s dedicated followers have also come together to raise money outside of the auctions, earmarking money for local musicians, nonprofits and even, in one case, $500 for flowers for a funeral.
“Community is exactly the best word for this,” Hanner said.
What: Virtual Silent Auction October Stimulus
When: Now through 8 p.m. October 25, 2020
“St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.
Lucas Hanner displays items donated for the Cherokee Virtual Silent Auctions initiative to raise money for Cherokee Street workers.