Much-needed rain in the Shenandoah Valley gave way to brilliant fall weather, contributing to the “enthusiastic spirit” that prevailed at the 44th annual Virginia Mennonite Relief Sale held Friday evening and Saturday, Oct. 1-2, at the Rockingham County Fairgrounds.
This year’s sale raised approximately $284,914 for the worldwide relief and service program of Mennonite Central Committee, slightly more than last year’s total of $283,246.
“It was evident from the outset that Thursday’s heavy rain wasn’t going to put a damper on the enthusiastic spirit at the sale,” said Phillip N. (Phil) Helmuth, relief sale chair. “Then, Friday and Saturday’s weather couldn’t have been better in contributing to this amazing community-building event,” he added.
Total funds included approximately $23,981 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 38 participants with $5,616.88. 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 go to the Global Family Program, which helps support children through community-based education sponsorship, student scholarships, nutritious lunches, library materials, school supplies, school fees and more. VMM will use its portion of the money to support two projects: a week-long event in Italy called “Happy Week” which teaches children about God in a loving, action and fun-filled setting. The other half will support the Joshua Center in Albania, which provides a nurturing place for young children to learn about God and to learn life skills.
Half of $8,600 raised in an additional special project effort will be divided between an international component (Global Family Program) and a local component, the Robert Webb Child Care Center in Harrisonburg.
An auction that began Friday and continued Saturday of handmade quilts, wall hangings, knotted comforters and afghans, artwork and wooden handcrafted items accounted for $102,355 of the total funds raised. Twenty items went for $1,000 or more.
The highest bid item was a small walnut Shaker-style chest of dove tail construction from an anonymous donor that went for $2,800.
Two handmade quilts went for $2,300 each – a 101 x 112 “Star Spin” quilt donated by Gerald and Anita Heatwole of McGaheysville and a 100×108 continuous rose off white quilt constructed by Anna Mary Burkholder of Waynesboro.
Popular food items were snapped up almost as fast as they were made, including between 14-15,000 homemade glazed donuts, 180 gallons of Brunswick stew made on the premises by members of Springdale and Mt. View Mennonite churches in Augusta County, barbecued chicken halves, homemade potato chips and apple butter and cider.
A new venture this year was a 5K walk/run Saturday that drew 130 participants and raised $1,948.
Helmuth expressed appreciation for the “overwhelming response” to a ‘Be the Match’ Foundation-sponsored stem cell drive held during the sale that entered 305 new people into an international data base of potential donors for persons needing stem cell or bone marrow transplants.
“Because of people’s generous response that far exceeded the foundation’s expectations, lives will literally be saved,” Helmuth added.
Helmuth is concluding a five-year stint as relief sale chair – three consecutive years, 2008-10, and two years earlier. MCC gave him special recognition for serving as coordinator of the organization’s overall North America Relief Sale efforts. During that tenure (1997-2002), 11 new sales in the US and Canada were added. The 43 MCC relief sales across North America now generate approximately $5.3 million per year.
Story by Jim Bishop. Jim can be reached at [email protected].