Virginia Relief Sale Sets New Record
MT. CRAWFORD – Following record-setting temperatures the past week in the Shenandoah Valley, things literally cooled down overnight. But at the 53rd annual Virginia Mennonite Relief Sale held Oct. 4-5 at the Rockingham County Fairgrounds, heated bidding and buying from the huge crowd led to record-setting sales.
This year’s sale – powered by more than 1,000 volunteers – raised preliminary proceeds of $383,033 for the worldwide relief, service and peacebuilding program of the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC). Last year’s final sale proceeds totaled $370,181.
“We definitely had a hugely successful event – it is a new record,” said an elated Dave Rush, relief sale chair. “And, we may eventually raise the final total once all expense reports are finalized.”
Activities got under way Friday evening with a large turnout for the 13,498 barbecued beef dinners served, music by Good Company and Striking Accord – local acapella music groups – and the start of the live and silent auction that resumed Saturday morning and ran through early afternoon.
The annual auction of handmade quilts, wall hangings, knotted comforters and afghans, artwork and wooden handcrafted items accounted for $128,083 of the total funds raised.
Total funds raised included $24,804 from the annual “My Coins Count” project from 27 Valley area churches. Area congregations and other groups collected coins and currency in large water jugs for weeks, then brought their containers to the sale for sorting and tabulating done by employees of Park View Federal Credit Union.
Lindale Mennonite Church north of Harrisonburg topped all donors with $4,359.30, followed by Harrisonburg Mennonite Church with $1,962.69, Park View Mennonite Church with $1,782.20 and Ridgeway Mennonite Church in Harrisonburg with $1,749.55.
This year’s funds will go to support refugee work in the Middle East and Jason Wagner’s chaplaincy work at Harrisonburg-Rockingham Regional Jail through Virginia Mennonite Missions and water access and conservation projects in Jordan through MCC.
A portion of this year’s “special project” funds – $5,750 – will be given to LOVE INC., a local faith-based ministry, and New Bridges Immigrant Resource Center in Harrisonburg.
Again this year, the Relief Sale board promoted an opportunity to add to the total relief sale giving through a “S.O.S. (Sharing Our Surplus)” campaign spearheaded by local pastor, counselor and community advocate Harvey Yoder. A special table was staffed by Everence volunteers during the sale for persons to donate money to MCC’s war and famine refugee relief. Yoder reported that approximately $25,777 came in for this initiative, with a three-year total of nearly $100,000 raised.
“People came up to me and expressed appreciation for the opportunity to contribute in this way,” Yoder said. “I’m grateful for their [verbal and financial] responses, and we expect to continue this ‘extra’ effort as part of the overall relief sale culture.”
During the auction, a woodcarving of the David Heatwole home near Hinton and donated by Betty Heatwole, drew a top bid of $4,000.
A 41”x 41” vintage feedsack wall hanging pieced by Carmen Wyse of Harrisonburg and quilted by Mac McArthur Fox of Blacksburg, Va., was auctioned for $3,500.
A slant-top desk in walnut with 10 drawers crafted by Norman Lambert of North Carolina went for $2,500, and a handmade guitar with spalted maple top and mahogany body by Darrell Weaver of Stuarts Draft sold for $2,500.
For the fourth year, John and Jennifer Murch and their children – Jonathan, 19, Rebecca, 18, Caroline, 15, and Nicholas, 13 – of Linville headed up the carefully-orchestrated donut-making operation. Around 15,550 of the confectionary delights were sold out by noon.
Other food offerings drawing long lines included kettle-cooked potato chips (1,350 pounds of potatoes used); 1,680 tamales made by a group from Immanuel Mennonite Church, Harrisonburg; 675 quarts of Brunswick stew made on the premises by members of Springdale Mennonite Church in Augusta County; Mississippi catfish dinners, grilled pinchos (marinated and spiced chicken on a stick), Indian dishes, bean and cheese tacos; homemade ice cream, cider and applebutter.
“I know I’ve said this before, but every year I love the way people come together in a spirit of unity, both the many volunteers and in the generous giving to the work of MCC,” Rush said. “Through this event, we work together to help others around the world whom Jesus calls us to serve.”
– Jim Bishop