MCC works to address pandemic amid decreased revenue streams

Mar 31, 2020 by and

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Mennonite Central Committee is continuing its work around the world, helping to limit the spread of coronavirus, even as COVID-19 diminishes events and activities that support MCC.

Water, sanitation and hygiene, health and food programs address the threats of COVID-19 for some of the world’s most vulnerable people, including displaced people. MCC is scaling up this work in some locations.

Many MCC partner organizations bolster health efforts by providing training about nutrition, hygiene and disease prevention and by strengthening access to food and clean water. MCC also supports several hospitals and clinics that serve people already at risk.

MCC director of disaster response Bruce Guenther said hygiene kit shipments are on their way to Jordan, Ukraine and Mozambique.

Locally purchased hygiene supplies will be distributed to displaced people in Lebanon, Syria and Malawi along with food packages that were already scheduled. MCC is providing locally purchased masks and gloves, adding extra handwashing stations at distribution points and adapting distributions to ensure physical distancing.

Thrift shops, relief sales

The spread of the coronavirus is forcing MCC to carry out its ministry with less funding, travel and staff in some places.

MCC thrift shops in Canada and the U.S. are temporarily shuttered, drying up funding that averaged more than $1.2 million a month in 2019.

Ten relief sales have canceled or postponed sales this spring, events that last year brought in more than $1.7 million.

Sales have been canceled or postponed in Fresno, Calif.; Harvey, N.D.; Bloomington, Ill.; Hutchinson, Kan.; Mountain Lake, Minn.; Aurora, Neb.; and Sherwood Park, Alta.; Harrisburg, Pa.; Nampa, Idaho; and ­Upland, Calif.

Kansas Mennonite Relief Sale board chair Jim Robb said the board needed to decide if it is practical to reschedule or if it should examine alternate ways to support MCC. A separate KMRS initiative to raise $1 million for MCC from 1,000 donors is continuing.

“Part of the difficulty comes with the uncertainty of the present situation we are in and not knowing when it would even be allowed for us to schedule an event of this size,” he said. The annual event takes place at the Kansas State Fairgrounds.

“Some relief sale committees are investing a lot of energy and creativity into figuring out alternative ways to host a relief sale and to raise money for MCC,” said Les Gustafson-Zook, MCC relief sale coordinator.

He encourages people to consult their local sale’s Facebook page or website to keep up with the most recent changes.

“They may also want to get started making things for next year, watch for online auctions at other relief sales or give money directly to MCC this year, and be ready to make next year’s relief sale better than ever,” Gustafson-Zook said.

Reserves of kits, meat

All of MCC’s regional offices are closed to the public, and staff are working remotely as they are able. The offices are still reachable by phone or email. Material resource centers have canceled events and asked volunteers to stay home until further notice.

Although the thousands of volunteers who come each week to sew and prepare hygiene kits and other supplies can’t come help, MCC has a three-month reserve of kits and comforters ready to be sent.

The 2019-20 meat canning season ended in March instead of April. Material resources coordinator Tom Wenger said that with 500,000 cans of meat, there is enough to meet the requests from partners for 12 months.

MCC has not recalled international workers to their home countries, but some young adults participating in Global Service Learning programs have decided to return home early from their assignments. These include the International Volunteer Exchange Program, Serving and Learning Together, Seed and the Young Anabaptist Mennonite Exchange Network.

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