The rains came down and the floods came up all summer long in the Shenandoah Valley. But at the 52nd annual Virginia Mennonite Relief Sale the weekend of Oct. 5-6 at the Rockingham County Fairgrounds, the sun came out as the auction bids went up.
Preliminary figures indicate this year’s sale raised about $370,000 for the worldwide relief, service and peacebuilding program of the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC). Last year’s effort raised $360,000 (preliminary), with actual final proceeds of $393,467.
“Once all expense reports are finalized, we may reach the $400,000 mark,” said Dave Rush of Harrisonburg, relief sale chair. “Each year we generally see an additional $30,000 coming in after the sale to raise the final total.”
Activities began Friday evening with a barbecued beef dinner, music by local acapella music groups Good Company and Cantore, 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 $115,489 of the total funds raised.
Total funds raised included $23,541 from the annual “My Coins Count” project from 30 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 $3,753, followed by Ridgeway Mennonite Church of Harrisonburg with $2,426 and Lynside Mennonite Church in Lyndhurst with $1,283. The funds will go to support Latino church planters through Virginia Mennonite Missions and girls’ access to education in Bangladesh through MCC.
This year’s “special projects” offering raised $5,300 to support the Roberta Webb Child Care Center, Harrisonburg, and emergency financial assistance through the Staunton-Augusta Church Relief Association (SACRA).
For a second 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 $35,000 came in for this initiative.
“While we hoped to exceed the nearly $41,000 the campaign brought in last year, we deeply appreciate the generosity of over 70 people who contributed,” Yoder said.
During the auction, a 79” x 84” 1930’s-40’s-era feed bag multi-colored quilt pieced and quilted by Pat Weaver took the top bid of $2,600.
A slant top walnut desk with many drawers handcrafted by Norman Lambert of North Carolina was auctioned for $6,000.
“Christmas Dreams,” a framed and double-matted print by P. Buckley Moss and donated by Darrel Weaver, took the top art bid of $300.
A gift of 12 monthly flower arrangements by “Flowers by Joy” (Joy Coakley) went for $1,000.
John and Jennifer Kurtz ’97 Murch and their four children of Linville headed up the carefully-orchestrated donut-making operation for the third year, with 16,740 of the confectionary delights sold.
New this year: Demetrio (Chiro) Flores and Lerynitza (Lery) Cruz and their son Demeric Flores of Ponce, Puerto Rico, grilled pinchos, marinated and spiced chicken on a stick served with bread. The family prepared 560 of this Puerto Rican version of the shish-kabob.
Other popular food items included 720 quarts of Brunswick stew made on the premises by members of Springdale Mennonite church in Augusta County, 550 homemade pies, 2,000 barbecued chicken halves, kettle-cooked potato chips, chili, tamales, Mississippi catfish dinners and Indian dishes.
“Every year I’m impressed with the way so many people come together in a spirit of unity, both the volunteer effort and 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.”
Article and photo by Jim Bishop