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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Silent auction Saturday will benefit veterans housing program

AMHERST – Does the prospect of adding a fully stocked, stainless steel wine chiller to your decor strike your fancy? Or would you rather take in a night with the Gangster of Love Steve Miller and his band?

These and plenty more items, from travel packages to Red Sox tickets to handsome home appointments, will be available for bid Saturday at the fifth annual Veterans FIRST Auction, a combo silent/live auction and dinner hosted for the second year by the Souhegan Valley Chamber of Commerce.

The event will benefit Veterans FIRST, a program of Harbor Homes of Nashua.

Among the other items available for bid will be a week’s stay in a gorgeous village house in the Cotes du Rhone region of southern France.

The event is at Alpine Grove in Hollis. The silent auction will take place during the social hour, roughly 5:30-7 p.m., with dinner and the live auction to follow.

Before joining with Veterans FIRST last year, the Chamber partnered for years with Easter Seals’ Veterans Count program. The local flavor of Veterans FIRST is what attracted the Chamber, executive director May Balsama said at the time.

“They’re really here in the area, they’re not a statewide agency,” she said, adding that while there is “absolutely” a need for veteran services throughout the state, she felt Harbor Homes is a better fit for the annual partnership.

Harbor Homes established Veterans FIRST, an acronym for Federal Investment Recognizing our Servicemen and women in Transition, in 2003 as an initiative to provide safe, stable transitional housing for honorably discharged veterans and their families.

It has opened two residential facilities in Nashua: Buckingham Place on Spring Street and Dalianis House on Factory Street.

The program supports veterans and their families for up to two years, helping with health care and financial management to job training and placement as they work toward becoming self-sufficient and eventually live independently.

Besides the Steve Miller concert, the week in France and the wine chiller, area businesses and individuals have also pledged a family vacation in a farmhouse in Sweden; a vacation at a cottage in Wells Beach, Maine; a weekend of hiking and outdoors sports; and a signed photo of Bruins goalie Tom Thomas.

Also, get the tattoo of your choice at Electric Angel Tattoo; a weekend at a Stowe, Vt., vacation home; nights on the town in Manchester and Portsmouth; an “extreme home makeover” by a combination of eight local home-improvement and accessories stores; and even a lunch date in Concord with state Sen. Peter Bragdon of Milford.

Last year, about 300 bidders participated in the silent and live auctions, a figure organizers hope to eclipse this year.

Dean Shalhoup can be reached at 594-6443 or