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On the other side of the world: Willmar, Minn., auctioneer uses her talents to help others

Kristine Fladeboe Duininck speaks to a jumpstart kindergarten class in the Philippines. Fladeboe Duininck also auctioned for the children, which “made them giggle,” she said. The classroom was made of bamboo and had open walls. (Submitted photo)

Kristine Fladeboe Duininck has auctioned for events across west central Minnesota, the Upper Midwest and even the country. But for the first time last week, she showcased her talents on a global stage, auctioning a fundraiser for International Care Ministries in Hong Kong. 

Founded in 1992, ICM offers programs to help those living in poverty in the Philippines. Once a year, ICM hosts a fundraising banquet that encourages donors to open their pocketbooks and support the mission.

ICM contacted Fladeboe Duininck and asked her to be the auctioneer for the event after seeing her work at a Feed My Starving Children fundraiser in Chicago.

The organization flew Fladeboe Duininck and her husband, Jamie Duininck, to the Philippines on Oct. 2 to spend five days in the country before traveling to Hong Kong for the auction. While in the Philippines, Fladeboe Duininck met people who had been helped by ICM and witnessed firsthand the deplorable conditions of the slum communities there.

“This experience touched my heart forever,” said Fladeboe Duininck, who co-owns Fladeboe Auctions with her brother, Glen Fladeboe.

“I feel so blessed to have visited this nation. We can all learn so much from the attitude of the Filipino people. Some of them have so little, and yet they are so happy and grateful. They have each other and they have their faith.”

Before leaving for the Philippines, Fladeboe Duininck estimates that she spent about 40 hours doing research on ICM, learning about its programs and asking questions in conference calls with the organization. But it wasn’t until she actually saw the slum communities in the Philippines — meeting families who live in bamboo huts with no electricity or plumbing, seeing farmers harvest their crop by hand, and visiting with young students who don’t have basic school supplies — that she understood the importance of making a difference there.

“They told me that if I could see the work being done there, I would do a better job of showing the audience my heart,” Fladeboe Duininck said. “I’m so grateful for the opportunity to go. I fell in love with the people there and fell in love with the organization.”

Fladeboe Duininck met one Filipino woman, Rosella, who made an especially profound impact on her. Rosella lives in a bamboo hut that sits on 4-foot stilts to protect it from the ocean tide. There are no appliances in the home — in fact, it doesn’t even have enough space for a kitchen.

“Still, Rosella greeted everyone with a smile,” Fladeboe Duininck said.

“She has so much hope for a better life. I cannot get her out of my mind, even now. She inspires me to keep my heart in the right spot.”

Meeting the Filipino people and becoming emotionally invested in the cause did bring with it some extra pressure for the auction, Fladeboe Duininck said. The stakes for the event were also high: ICM’s goal was to raise $1.3 million. One thousand people would be in the audience, with an additional 12 countries watching live and bidding online.

“I would be untruthful if I didn’t say the pressure was definitely on,” Fladeboe Duininck said. “It was greater pressure than usual, but I knew I had to let my confidence shine and believe in myself. I knew that I was there for a reason greater than myself.”

Not only did Fladeboe Duininck help ICM meet its goal, but she exceeded the organization’s expectations by bringing in $1.5 million, or $11.4 million Hong Kong dollars, by the end of the evening. It’s the most money she has ever raised in an auction, and the most money ICM has ever raised at its annual fundraiser.

“This is a huge career highlight,” said Fladeboe Duininck, who was also named the 2010 International Auctioneer Champion by the National Auctioneers Association.

“This trip measures right up there. But I also knew that it wasn’t about me. I’m proud of myself, but the credit goes to everyone involved.”

Fladeboe Duininck has been back in Minnesota now for more than a week, but she’s still having trouble processing her time there and sharing the stories from her trip. It’s something she wishes everyone could have the chance to experience for themselves, she said.

“It changed my life. It really did,” she said. “I’m just so grateful that I have been given the opportunity to use my talent to make a difference in the lives of others.”

Ashley White

Ashley White is the community content coordinator for the West Central Tribune. Follow her on Twitter @Ashley_WCT.

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