Brisk temperatures and sunny skies seemed to contribute to the “great community building experience” that epitomized the 45th annual Virginia Mennonite Relief Sale held Friday evening and Saturday, Sept. 30- Oct. 1, at the Rockingham County Fairgrounds.
This year’s sale raised approximately $301,477 for the worldwide relief and service program of Mennonite Central Committee, up from last year’s total of $284,914.
“I saw a lot of people having fun together while spending money for a worthy cause,” said David Rush of Harrisonburg, relief sale chair. “It was a great exercise in community building.”
Total funds included approximately $29,251 for the annual “Penny Power” project, 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. Harrisonburg Mennonite Church headed the list of 36 participants with $5,488. The total raised does not include some matching funds expected later.
Penny Power funds will be divided equally between Mennonite Central Committee and Virginia Mennonite Missions. The money MCC receives will build sand dams, a low-cost technology to harvest rainwater, a clean, local water supply for homes and farming. To learn more, visit
VMM will use its portion of the funds to dig water wells in Haiti for fresh, clean water. VMM is also training some Haitians to operate this equipment. The cost of drilling each well is approximately $7,000. Funds will benefit children in Haiti and other locations where clean water is needed.
It was announced at the sale that Jean Pierre, 29, long-time well drilling rig operator with the Haitian project, was killed Sept. 26 in a motor vehicle crash near the Port-au-Prince airport. Pierre was a long-time friend of the Joe Arbaugh family of Stuarts Draft, who has helped spearhead the well drilling operations in Haiti.
The auction that began Friday and continued Saturday of handmade quilts, wall hangings, knotted comforters and afghans, artwork and wooden handcrafted items accounted for $96,285 of the total funds raised. Eighteen items went for $1,000 or more.
The highest bid item was a 92″ x 112″ circle star quilt, pieced and quilted in green, mauve and off-white by the women of Springdale Mennonite Church, Waynesboro, Va., that went for $3,000. A 108″ x 102″ “stars in common” quilt, hand-quilted by Nancy Heatwole, was auctioned for $2,700.
An auction item of special interest, a model backhoe excavating machine mounted on a tractor-trailer hauler, went for $2,200. It was the last handcrafted item made by Harold L. Martin of Harrisonburg, a long-time carpenter, Mennonite Disaster Service and Gift & Thrift volunteer and relief sale donor. Martin died Sept. 19 at age 86.
Some $6,700 raised in an additional special effort will go to the “MCC Sudan: Coming Home” project. Trauma healing, peace building, food relief, agriculture projects and HIV/AIDS education and care are helping with recovery and rebuilding as people return to their communities in southern Sudan after a 22-year civil war shattered the area.
Many food items were snapped up as soon as they were made, including some 14,500 homemade glazed donuts and 150 gallons of Brunswick stew made on the premises by members of Springdale and Mt. View Mennonite churches in Augusta County.
The food venue also offered 2,925 barbecued chicken halves, chili, Laotian dishes, potato chips, around 3,900 quarts of apple butter and fresh cider. Caramel popcorn made on the premises by the Myron and Regina Brubaker family, was new this year.
Also new this year was a double elimination Corn Hole tournament. Prizes were awarded for first, second and third place. The second annual 5K walk/run drew 118 participants.
“A big thank you goes out to the more than a thousand volunteers who did an incredible job in making things run smoothly,” added Rush, in his first year as relief sale chair. “The weather Saturday was beautiful, and things were completely cleaned up by late after noon before it started to rain.”
The 43 MCC relief sales across North America that includes the Harrisonburg effort generate approximately $5.3 million each year.
Story by Jim Bishop