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Grab Your Paddles

Fair Warning for HVA's Annual, Star-Studded Auction



What do an actress, an editor, two fashion designers, a novelist, and a U.S. Senator all have in common? They are all contributors to the preservation of one of Litchfield County’s most precious resources—the Housatonic River. And they will be offering and bidding on all sorts of goodies like trips to tropical resorts, golf outings, and even lunch with a power broker in our nation’s capital. The event is the Housatonic Valley Association’s 24th annual Auction to Benefit the Environment, which will be held at Washington Primary School on Sunday, November 23.

The auction—created by fashion icon Diane von Furstenberg—is currently chaired by “Good Wife” star Christine Baranski and co-chaired by Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter, fashion designer Linda Allard, and novelist Anne Leary, among others—raises awareness and money for the HVA.

Since 1941, the HVA has been dedicated to the preservation of the Housatonic Valley. The river that flows through the valley, stretching 149 miles, meanders south from the farmlands of southwestern Massachusetts, over the rocky riverbeds of limestone, quartz, and granite of northwestern Connecticut, past the hydroelectric dams of New Milford, Bridgewater, and Monroe, and, ultimately, to its outlet in Long Island Sound at Milford Point. Along the way, its rich resources help sustain life in its waters and on its banks.

It is the aim of the HVA to support responsible growth in the area while balancing human expansion with measured efforts of preservation. In partnership with 23 land trusts and conservation organizations across the Housatonic’s 83 watershed communities, the HVA has been immensely successful in its efforts, becoming one of only ten land trusts in Connecticut to be accredited by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission. On the abilities of the HVA’s staff and the magnitude of their work, Litchfield County resident, novelist, and former BBC broadcaster Frank Delaney commented, “The River is so important to us all. That there is a group of people that are highly intelligent looking after it is very important.”

The event, consisting of a silent and live auction, welcomes over 200 guests annually and raises around $150,000, making it the HVA’s largest fundraiser. At least some of the auction’s success can be attributed to its long list of distinguished guests residing in close proximity to the Housatonic. Says co-chair Linda Allard, “I love the area and its beauty and feel a responsibility to protect the river that sustains so much life.” That sense of responsibility shared by so many prominent people and local celebrities has helped bring attention to the cause and is a testament to the importance of the HVA’s work.

Over the years, auction-goers have bid generously on items such as books, local arts and crafts, tickets to concerts and sports events, and week-long vacations in the Caribbean, among other covetable items. Those in attendance might become an extra on the set of the CBS drama, “The Good Wife,” or win a cocktail party hosted and catered by a well-known local. Others can simply enjoy the sport of bidding. For example, Delaney has bid on, and won, lunch in Washington, D.C., with Senator Richard Blumenthal for three consecutive years without ever once dining with the politician. Delaney says he simply enjoys the auction action and looks forward to bidding again this year in the spirit of charity.

Based on a characteristically impressive list of chairs and co-chairs and the HVA’s flourishing reputation for responsible environmental work, this year’s auction promises to be another successful evening. With the help of generous bidders, the HVA can continue work on projects, including reducing pollution caused by runoff, advocating for public policies that protect the Housatonic in Hartford and Boston, installing fish ladders to support river life, and working with children from Danbury elementary schools to, in the words of HVA executive director Lynn Werner, “inspire a lifelong love affair with nature in their young hearts.” With these projects, as well as many others, the HVA can continue to protect the critically important Housatonic River and its vital watershed.

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