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Vic Keeler: The go-to guy for Lobster Feeds auction

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When Carol Winston found out that Vic Keeler was on her team for the Lake Oswego Rotary Club Lobster Feed and Charity Auction, her reaction was nothing less than ecstatic.

'I clicked my heels and I ran all the way to Rotary,' Winston said.

That is because when it comes to acquiring auction items for the Lobster Feed and Auction, Keeler is in a class by himself. His presence on a team may not be an absolute guarantee of winning, but it certainly comes close.

'Vic is definitely the most successful procurer for the auction,' said Winston. 'He gets such a wonderful assortment of things.'

Andrew Edwards, executive director of the Lakewood Center for the Arts, has been part of all 23 Lobster Feed auctions and his word to describe Keeler is 'Super.'

'Vic always brings in the most stuff,' Edwards said, 'and his teams are consistently at the top. He's been the leader for over 20 years, and that's quite a feat. His contacts with the community are fabulous.'

Keeler's specialty is cars, due to his long career in the automobile business. He has obtained a Jaguar, Buick, Oldsmobile, Ford Explorer, and, the topper, a Model T.

Yet he also gets tires, limo rides, blueprints, restaurant meals, lumber, flowers and boat rides.

'Vic is just so consistent,' said event organizer Nancy LaBonte. 'He has a lot of credibility.'

When asked the secret of his success, Keeler replies, 'Just asking people.'

That doesn't seem like much of a secret. But when Keeler does it, it works. He is by no means a brash salesman or a glad-hander. Instead, he is quiet, low-key and dignified. He is a man you can trust. When he asks you to donate a car, it seems like the right thing to do.

'I have a lot of acquaintances,' Keeler said. 'If you're honest with people and tell them what you're doing and what it's for, you get good results.

'I don't try to up-sell. That's a big problem with a lot of salesmen. I have a good clientele. I know these people. I contact them every year and they've been very generous supporting community needs.'

Keeler is informative. He lets donators know exactly what charities they will be supporting and what percentage will actually go toward the need, not administration costs.

He is also considerate. A woman recently considered donating her husband's Model A coup but was afraid it would be chopped up and turned into 'some kind of street rod.' Keeler assured her that the vehicle would remain intact.

Owner of Vic's Auto Center in Lake Oswego since 1974 and a Rotarian since 1978, Keeler said he got off to a slow start as a procurer for the first auction in 1982.

'The first year was a little spotty,' he said. 'I only made about $2,000 or $3,000. The next year I used a different approach.

'When you approach people as you would like to be approached, everyone wants to participate. That's the way it is in a small community.'

After so many years, Keeler now doesn't even have to actually visit many of his donators. They simply send in their item to the LO Rotary Club with Keeler's name attached to it.

The inspiration for Keeler to do such good work, of course, is the millions of dollars that the Rotarians have raised for local charities. But there is one cause in particular that has his devotion - women's shelters.

'I think they need all the help they can get,' Keeler said. 'They have a continuing challenge to get state funds, and the more we can do for them the better.

'Sometimes it's 'out of sight, out of mind' and you don't think there's a need for this in Lake Oswego. Unfortunately, it does happen in Lake Oswego, too.'

Keeler has showed no signs of losing his touch for the 2007 auction.

'Most members of a team might get five or six items,' Edwards said. Edwards guesses Keeler may acquire close to 100 before the Lobster Feed.

Since Rotarians are not only public spirited but highly competitive, Keeler is everybody's No. 1 draft pick to be on their auction team. But he laughs at his reputation as a ringer.

'They just like it because they don't have to work so hard,' Keeler said.

But Winston assures everyone, 'That won't happen this year. We've got a great table.'

Even though it surely helps, you don't need to be on Vic Keeler's Rotary team to appreciate him. You just have to live in the Lake Oswego community.

The 2007 Lake Oswego Rotary Club Lobster Feed and Charity Auction will be held Saturday at the Lakewood Center for the Arts at 368 S. State St. in Lake Oswego.

To contribute auction items call 503-635-6338.

For information and ticket purchase go to the Rotary Club's Web site at www.lorotary.org .