Relief sales succeed without main event

Creative, generous people don’t need a mass gathering to support MCC

Jun 29, 2020 by and

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NORTH NEWTON, Kan. — COVID-19 stopped the Kansas Mennonite Relief Sale’s main event, but it couldn’t stop people from coming together to support Mennonite Central Committee. They’ve already raised almost as much as last year.

Kansas sale board chair Jim Robb presented a $500,000 check to MCC Central States on June 18. The sale gave $540,000 a year ago, and board members are confident tens of thousands of dollars in additional proceeds will keep coming before the fiscal year ends in October.

Kansas Mennonite Relief Sale board chair Jim Robb presents a $500,000 donation to Mennonite Central Committee Central States executive director Michelle Armster. — Tim Huber/MWR

Kansas Mennonite Relief Sale board chair Jim Robb presents a $500,000 donation to Mennonite Central Committee Central States executive director Michelle Armster. — Tim Huber/MWR

“We have done this with thanks to children, to old folks, all kinds of people who expected big results because they have big hearts,” Robb said.

When the sale’s board decided in March to cancel the annual April event at the Kansas State Fairgrounds in Hutchinson, moods were low. With this being MCC’s centennial year, the board had hoped for a bumper crop of giving.

“It was almost a kind of depression that we couldn’t do something we love, to support MCC and believe in a God who wants us to reach out to people in the world,” Robb said.

A “Thousand for a Thousand” initiative in Kansas to gather 1,000 donations of $1,000 to get MCC an additional $1 million had already begun, and continued in spite of COVID-19. That drive was joined by individuals who couldn’t sit and do nothing when the second weekend in April rolled around.

“I remember thinking we shouldn’t expect to hit $500,­000,” board member Matt Schmidt said of an early conference call. “. . . The need wasn’t going away. Our job is to provide a vehicle, to activate it, to turn people loose to be creative.”

Vehicles that would have been auctioned off were sold online and in-person, raising $40,800. Nearly 700 meals were sold in a Goessel drive-through, raising nearly $20,000. Kids collected coins. Baked goods and plant sales were coordinated online. Run for Relief participants ran on their own.

Other people simply sent in donations — relief sale or not — and those donations keep coming. Robb said other fundraising events will be coming.

“We’re in the process of waiting until harvest is over for either a benefit auction or online auction of things related to 2020 and the Super Bowl,” he said, alluding to a football signed by San Francisco 49ers assistant coach Katie Sowers, an alumna of Hess­ton and Goshen colleges.

“There are some woodworking items that haven’t been sold. There’s been discussion of a quilter’s corner. We’re just watching how COVID-19 goes. We’ll encourage people to keep making donations and doing My Coins Count.”

Online sales grow

Supporters of other relief sales have been working to support MCC in spite of COVID-19.

The New Hamburg (Ont.) Mennonite Relief Sale began auctioning quilts online a few years ago and did so again this year. Even though fewer quilts were sold than in 2019, more money was raised.

One hundred quilts generated $78,025 in revenue at nhmrs.hibid.com, and a silent auction at another site sold 30 quilts for $7,840. These 130 quilts totaled $85,865 compared to 202 quilts raising $82,700 last year.

Sale chair John Reimer said about 57 quilts remain to be sold this year, and the relief sale committee will discuss how to sell them in the coming months.

Les Gustafson-Zook, MCC North American relief sales coordinator, said the Ontario auction inspired the Virginia, Michiana, North Michigan, Nebraska and Fresno, Calif., sales to try online quilt auctions as well. The Ohio Relief Sale was already planning an online auction in late September and early October.

Many sales are continuing to promote My Coins Count coin collection, and some Run for Relief events have gone “virtual” with participants running on their own and connecting online.

Inspired by meals sold in April in Goessel, Kan., Gustafson-Zook noted several sale boards are exploring what food options they might be able to develop for carry­out distribution.

“A number of sales have asked for MCC giving registries so folks can make online donations in honor of their sale,” Gustafson-Zook said, “including trying to give the beautiful centennial traveling quilt some action, since it was intended to visit many sales this year.”

Information about the quilt is at donate.mcc.org/registry/centennial-traveling-quilt.

Raising dough

MCC invited households to celebrate baking traditions on June 5, National Doughnut Day, with widespread response.

Families in Henderson, Neb., raised $15,000 that day. Carol Jan­zen raised $10,300 by frying about 2,000 new year’s cookies in her garage with her husband, Royce, and grandchildren Ben and Maddie Janzen. Her efforts were joined by Arlyce Friesen’s apple prieshka (hand pies) and Jen Hiebner’s drop cookies.

Ed and Gwen Peachey of Corvallis, Ore., made 271 doughnuts and raised $7,000 for the Oregon Mennonite Relief Sale.

Madi Campbell-Janz of Akron, Pa., sold two strawberry pies to people in her church for $545.

The Heu family of First Hmong Mennonite Church in Kitchener, Ont., made 184 orders of creme brulee. — Mennonite Central Committee

The Heu family of First Hmong Mennonite Church in Kitchener, Ont., made 184 orders of creme brulee. — Mennonite Central Committee

The Heu family of First Hmong Mennonite Church in Kitchener, Ont., raised $640 by baking 184 orders of creme brulee, and the Vang family raised $1,325 by mixing, rolling, frying and packaging 888 spring rolls. The Vang children even set up a lemonade stand to raise money for an MCC worker whose son is undergoing cancer treatment.


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