For everyone who has spent the year saving their pennies and spare change in preparation for the Zonta Club’s 12th annual Penny and Silent Auction, it’s time to break your piggy banks and prepare to load up the family for an evening of fun.

The event is set for Saturday at the Stephenville City Park Recreation Hall, located at 378 W. Long Street. Doors will open at 5 p.m. and the pennies will begin to drop at 6 - the club decided to open the doors an hour earlier this year, in hopes that more players will be encouraged to attend.

“We hope that more people will attend due to the new start time,” event co-chair Yvonne Jenkins said. “And we hope that everyone will hang in until the very end. We save the best (prizes) for last.”

For 11 consecutive years, the Zonta Club has hosted the auction, which first began as a small event, attended by dozens of locals. In more recent years, masses have flocked from near and far, by the hundreds to take part in the fun-filled evening of fellowship and fundraising.

Last year the event raised almost $8,000, which brought the 11-year total to more than $50,000 in pocket change.

Jenkins and co-chair for the Zonta Club Penny Auction, Virginia Bills, are optimistic that this year’s auction will be as successful as past years.

“Considering the state of our economy, our local merchants have been very generous in their donations of items for auction,” Bills said. “We are hoping that those who attend this auction will be as generous in their bidding.”

For those who haven’t played, the game is like bingo with a twist.

The fun begins as participants file into the recreation hall and purchase cups. Each cup costs $1 and is marked by a number (1-1,600). There are no limits on the number of cups each player can purchase; the more cups played, the better the chances of winning.

Inside each cup is a ping-pong ball numbered to match the cup. The ping-pong ball is placed in a hopper as players ready their pennies and wait for the game to begin.

An array of auction items, including a football autographed by the 2008 Yellow Jacket football team, gift certificates, cases of Dublin Dr Pepper, decorator items, home furnishings, gift baskets, jewelry, beauty products, cash, a sofa table with two lamps and a wrought iron candle holder and much more will be up for grabs.

The bidding begins when the auctioneer introduces the items to the crowd and announces the cost of the item in mere pennies. Participants then put the declared value (say three cents) in their cups. A ball is chosen from the hopper and the number of that ball is announced.

If the chosen number matches a cup that contains the requested donation, the individual with that cup wins the prize.

“The secret to winning at this auction is playing several cups and bidding on every item,” Jenkins said. “Some items, you may not particularly want for yourself, but you could use them as gifts for others.”

Once the auction item has been delivered to its owner, the pennies in everyone’s cups are emptied into a bucket and collected. This is where the pennies start to add up.

When doing the math, you can see that a simple round on a three cent prize, with all 1,600 cups filled will net the club $48. So, if the club collects 200 donated prizes and all the cups are filled, the fun-filled event will raise $9,600 for charity.

And, skip dinner, the lovely ladies of the Zonta Club have it covered. Chichi Fambro’s famous and delicious homemade chicken salad and pimento cheese sandwiches will please your pallet for a small fee. In addition, snacks and drinks will be available to keep you going. What’s more, you never have to leave your seats - club members will gladly deliver food to your table.

Funds raised by the Zonta Club support three TSU scholarships, three Stephenville High School scholarships, two Erath County scholarships, United Way, American Cancer Society, Hope, literacy, Toys for Tots, Erath County Jr. Livestock Show, Habitat for Humanity, and other charitable organizations.