A week of heavy rain, wind and cool temperatures that continued into the weekend in the central Shenandoah Valley may have lowered attendance but failed to dampen spirits at the 49th Virginia Mennonite Relief Sale held Oct. 2-3 at the Rockingham County Fairgrounds.
Preliminary figures indicate this year’s sale raised about $264,021 for the worldwide relief and service program of the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC). Last year’s effort raised $340,200.
“Once all expenses and reports are finalized, we expect that we’ll be able to forward significantly more funds to MCC,” said Dave Rush of Harrisonburg, relief sale chair.
Activities began Friday evening with a barbecued beef dinner, music by local groups and the start of the live and silent auction and ran through Saturday afternoon. Nearly 1,000 volunteers offered their time and talents.
The funds raised included $24,530 from the annual “My Coins Count” (formerly “Penny Power”) project. MCC changed the name since Canada took the penny out of circulation. Each year, area congregations, schools, homes and businesses collect coins and currency in large water jugs for weeks, and then bring their containers to the sale for sorting and tabulating done by employees of Park View Federal Credit Union.
This year’s funds will be distributed among MCC and Virginia Mennonite Missions programs – School for Refugees in Cairo, Egypt; Village Altonodji, helping children who are victims of war and AIDS in Moundou, Chad; the Joshua Center, ministering to children in Albania ; Maranatha School for the Deaf in Jamaica; and Kids Club, supporting Seth and Theresa Crissman’s work with Harrisonburg area congregations in providing programs to community children.
Ridgeway Mennonite Church in Harrisonburg topped the list of 33 participating congregations with $2,434.61, followed by Mt. View Mennonite Church with $2,217.67 and Trissels Mennonite Church with $2,015.31.
The final My Coins Count total is likely to be higher with some matching funds and other gifts expected to come in, according to Rush.
The annual auction of handmade quilts, wall hangings, knotted comforters and afghans, artwork and wooden handcrafted items accounted for $114,213 of the total funds raised, down some $ 8,000 over last year.
The highest bid item at the auction, $4,900, was a Water Lily crocheted bedspread (84,000 stitches) made by the late Janet Pitcoff of New Jersey from 14 miles of white cotton thread and donated by Suzanne and John Jost of Peoria, Il.
A six-pointed star pattern crib quilt/wall hanging pieced by Carman Wyse of Harrisonburg and quilted by Mac McArthur of Blacksburg, went for $2,400. The quilt top was made from vintage feed sacks from the 1930s and 1940s.
An 80”x82” scrappy comforter, “Fading Charms,” made and donated by the Ridgeway Mennonite-East Side Church Kids Club, brought $700.
Another unique auction was a podium made by local craftsman Jay Moyer from a walnut tree on the property of Joseph Funk (1778-1862) of Singers Glen that brought $450. Funk was a pioneer American music teacher, publisher and composer who invented a shape note system in 1852 for the “Harmonia Sacra” songbook still in use today.
A handcrafted marble roller by Dan Bowman of Harrisonburg, who is blind, with grain display by his wife Ferne Bowman, went for $400.
The homemade glazed donut operation got under way at 1 a.m. Saturday, with 11,000 of the confectionary delights sold.
Other popular food items included 180 gallons of Brunswick stew made on the premises by members of Springdale Mennonite church in Augusta County, homemade potato chips, caramel popcorn, apple butter and fresh cider, barbecued chicken halves, chili, Laotian and Indian dishes and homemade chicken corn and potato soup.
“Despite less than ideal weather, we still had a wonderful time together raising money for MCC,” Rush said. “We had a lot of commitment from our volunteers and from the many people who braved the elements to come out in support of this worthy cause. “One of the main reasons I love working with the relief sale every year is that in spite of many differences in the Mennonite Church we can still come together ‘in the name of Christ’ to help needy people around the world.”
-Written by Jim Bishop