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Harrisonburg: Annual relief sale a big success

Story by Jim Bishop

Economic woes apparently took a back seat to spectacular weather that helped draw an enthusiastic crowd of nearly 10,000 to the 42nd annual Virginia Mennonite Relief Sale held Oct. 3-4 at the Rockingham County Fairgrounds.

This year’s sale raised approximately $307,638 in total receipts for Mennonite Central Committee. This does not include some pledges in matching funds from individuals that when added will push the amount raised slightly over last year’s sales total of $310,000.

The funds included approximately $25,183 for the “Penny Power” project, initiated in 2001, in which area congregations, school, homes and businesses collect coins and currency in large water jugs for weeks or months and bring their containers to the sale for sorting and tabulating. Last year’s effort raised $28,984.

“Penny Power” funds will be divided equally between MCC and Virginia Mennonite Missions (VMM). MCC’s portion will be used to help MCC community workers promote peace projects. VMM will use its portion to support church planting and community efforts in an under served neighborhood of Harrisonburg and Graham, N.C.

An auction of handmade quilts, wall hangings, knotted comforters and afghans, artwork and wooden handcrafted items accounted for $143,801 of the total funds raised. Around 26 items went for $1,000 or more; 19 were quilts.

The highest bid item was an oval-top pine table with Queen Anne legs made from recycled lumber made and donated by Jay Moyer of Dayton. He found the wood in a pile of lumber on the M.J. Heatwole homestead.

An off-white 102″x110″ Queen Anne quilt made by Anna Mary Burkholder of Augusta County, using using 950 yards of thread, brought a top bid of $6,000.

A solid walnut 79″ grandmother clock made by Stan Cline of Harrisonburg went for $4,100. A maple marble roller fashioned by Dan Bowman of Harrisonburg, who is blind, went for $2,500.

Eastern Mennonite University students and local youth groups spent the evenings of Oct. 1-2 on campus to roll nearly 5,000 towels and bag nearly 1,350 gallons of laundry soap, part of the contents of relief kits or school kits that MCC will send to Iraq. Some students also joined other volunteers Saturday morning at the relief sale to assemble 1,700 relief kits and 2,000 school kits collected and filled the MCC semi-truck. The project also received $22,183 in cash contributions.

Again this year the venue included such popular food items as 12,000 homemade glazed donuts (that were sold out by late morning), 180 gallons of Brunswick stew made on the premises by members of Springdale and Mountain View Mennonite churches in Augusta County, 3,000 barbecued chicken halves, homemade potato chips and apple butter and cider.

The sale opened with a Friday afternoon two-hour live radio broadcast called “Down Home Shenandoah” on radio station WSIG, 96.9 FM. Using music and storytelling, the program sought to interpret the history and culture of the various Mennonite groups in the central Valley area and give a behind-the-scenes look at relief sale preparations. The broadcast ended with the audience joining in singing “606” (now #118 in the Brethren-Mennonite hymnal), “Praise God from Whom all Blessings Flow.”

Philip N. Helmuth, relief sale chair, was pleased with the auction results.
“We recognize there are many needs around the world, and it seems that the economy didn’t affect peoples’ response,” Helmuth said. “They remained generous despite these tough economic times.”

The Virginia Mennonite Relief Sale is held annually on the first weekend in October. It began on the Paul Wenger near Waynesboro and expanded to Augusta Expoland, Fishersville, in 1974. The sale moved to the Rockingham County Fairgrounds in 1999.

augusta free press
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