Goshen News, Goshen, IN

Local News

September 25, 2010

Mennonite Relief Sale a time to help, visit with old friends

GOSHEN — The 43rd annual Michiana Mennonite Relief Sale kicked off with a bang Saturday morning as droves of people from Indiana and the surrounding states flocked to the Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds to help support the worldwide relief efforts of Mennonite Central Committee.

Now in its 90th year of operation, MCC is a faith-based relief and development organization that was created through a partnership between the Mennonite and Brethren in Christ churches. Their goal was to respond to basic human needs and work for peace and justice both in the United States and abroad.

According to Stanley Kropf, interim executive director of MCC’s Great Lakes Region, relief sales such as the one held Saturday are among the committee’s largest and most wide-spread fundraising efforts. Hundreds of such sales occur throughout the United States and Canada each year.

“They are all locally sponsored and administered,” Kropf said. “And the goal behind them is to raise funds for all of our international programs, which include water programs, HIV/AIDS programs, hunger and natural disaster programs, you name it.”

While each relief sale is run with a particular theme, Kropf noted that Saturday’s theme centered primarily around the enjoyment and sale of donated quilts, comforters, afghans and wall hangings.

“Each quilt is donated, and generally they’re made by groups of women in the area who bring them in to be auctioned off,” Kropf said. “There are around 280 quilts up for auction this year, which is pretty good.”

In addition to the popular quilt sales, the event hosted several other auctions with everything from antiques and artwork to children’s toys up for grabs.

“The sale here often raises between $250,000 and $300,000 each year,” Kropf said, noting that he anticipates such a haul will be likely this year as well. “It’s a nice-size crowd, and people seem to be enjoying themselves, which is always a good sign.”

And of course one can forget the food — lots and lots of food. Visitors to the sale were treated with everything from pancakes and whole hog sausage in the morning to apple butter, funnel cakes, cotton candy and chicken barbecue in the afternoon.

Such taste bud tempters were among the biggest draws for Amber Lichtenberger of Wren, Ohio, who was visiting the sale Saturday with her mother, Shareen.

“The food!” Amber exclaimed with a laugh when asked about her favorite part of the event, though her mother had a few different ideas about what made the day most memorable.

“I just think it’s great getting to see all the intricate work that goes into these quilts, and all of the time that must have gone into them,” Shareen said. “Each one tells its own story, so it’s a really neat experience in that respect. They truly are works of art.”

Jim Carr, of LaGrange, said that while he also enjoys the quilting aspect of the sale, it is the mission behind the sale that has drawn him and his family to the event every year for the past 25 years.

“The Mennonites do such a great job with their work,” Carr said. “I’m not a Mennonite myself, but I respect the great job that they do, so that’s the main reason we come.”

Carr said he also enjoys the sense of community that comes with being part of such a large and well-known event each year.

“We always run into friends that we’ve met here over these past 25 years,” Carr said. “Sometimes we only see them once a year, so it’s a really fun time.”

Alta Mellinger of Villa Park, Ill., agreed.

“We love seeing all the people, and running into old friends,” Mellinger said. “You just don’t know who you’re going to see when you come to the sale.”

For Goshen’s Nancy Loewen, however, when it comes right down to it, it’s all about the money.

“We were actually MCC workers overseas, so we’re very supportive of the work that MCC does around the world,” Loewen said. “I think this sale is one of their most successful ways of raising money, and I like to be a part of it.”

For more information on the annual MCC Relief Sale, visit www.mennonitesale.org. For more information on the MCC organization, visit www.mcc.org.

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