Doughnuts, donations drive MCC relief sale - LancasterOnline: News

Doughnuts, donations drive MCC relief sale

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Posted: Saturday, April 2, 2011 8:37 pm | Updated: 12:14 am, Thu Sep 12, 2013.

About $50,500 worth of coins - those humble pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters - were piled up in giant jugs, waiting to be counted by dozens of volunteers.

More than 5,000 doughnuts were made right there at the Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg by about 30 people, who were rolling dough, deep frying and glazing for two days straight.

And thousands of people purchased chicken corn soup, thrift shop treasures, soft pretzels, quilts, flowers and luscious-looking strawberry pies.

The 55th annual Mennonite Central Committee relief sale was held in the Exposition Hall of the Farm Show Complex Friday and Saturday and all those coins, volunteers and doughnuts helped raise $338,333.

All proceeds go to the Mennonite Central Committee for relief work and peace programs.

This East Coast sale is one of 45 held throughout the country and Canada during the year.

It was done through the labor and love of endless volunteers who manned stands, donated items and solicited large donations of food and other items from businesses throughout the area, including Shady Maple and Spring Glen in Lancaster .

"Oh, they work you till you drop," joked Earl Fuhrman, of Hanover, a board member who has been working the relief sale for 20 years now. "But you know, we're glad to do it. Right now, there are so many needs."

"That's one of the great things about the sale," says Grant Rissler, of the Mennonite Central Committee East Coast, headquartered in Akron. "There are all these different patches of people giving their gifts. It's kind of like a quilt."

Quilts have always been a big attraction at the relief sale and more than 400 of them were auctioned off Friday and Saturday.

The total for the quilt auction, which included donations to a peace quilt, which travels to a number of MCC relief sales, was $121,070.

But most of the people who attend the relief sale aren't planning on big purchases.

They want to have a good time, see old friends and buy some goodies.

"We come to enjoy the food, mill around, look at the stands and see what treasures we can find," said Patti Shradley, of Harrisburg, who was there with her husband, Max. "People donate some of the darndest things. I hear there's a John Deere tractor. "

For the Shradleys, a visit to the relief auction wouldn't be complete without purchasing a strawberry pie.

"We always buy one. It's a tradition," Mrs. Shradley says. "And it's a good organization. They need a lot of support and aid."

Loris and Dick Cunningham, of Manheim, also come to socialize and look around and shop a little. They have their priorities, though.

"He walked in and got the doughnuts first thing," Mrs. Cunningham said. "We just got here and he's already eaten one."

Doughnuts raise lots of money, but so do pennies.

Penny Power is a program where people drop off their spare change in a number of different locations, mostly churches.

"It's shocking how much money we get," said Holly Myers, a Penny Power coordinator. "They collect the coins throughout the year in big water jugs and bring them in. This year, the money is designated for peace and reconciliation programs at MCC."

Rissler noted that this sale is usually the third largest of the 45 held. Since 1957, more than $11 million has been raised (excluding this weekend's figures).

"There is a Kansas sale, which is larger, and the one in British Columbia is the largest," Rissler said. "It often raises about $750,000."

He explained that the money goes to both immediate relief work and long- term community-based programs as well as peace efforts. "A majority of our work is ongoing. Our strength is being there for the long haul," he said.

The MCC goes where the need is. In the past year or so, earthquakes have devastated Japan and Haiti. The MCC has responded to both.

"In a place like Japan, where we don't have programs, we look for partners we know and trust. In a place like Haiti, we have 50 years of experience," Rissler said.

The Exposition Hall was buzzing Saturday afternoon. Almost all of the chairs in the two dining areas were taken, filled with young and old alike. And the quilt auction was spirited.

"The crowd is more full than it was last year," said Chairman Ken Martin. "The weather worked in our favor. It was cool enough and still wet enough that people couldn't work outside, so they came here. That can make a huge difference."

The sale keeps a balance between change and tradition.

Martin pointed to the children's area, which has been expanded to include jugglers, clowns and a balloonist as well as an auction.

The vast majority of volunteers are from local Mennonite and Brethren in Christ Churches. And while there weren't too many overt signs of religion in the hall, it is what the relief sale ultimately is all about.

"This is key to our faith tradition," Rissler said. "We come to share the love and compassion of Christ by responding to basic human needs and working for peace and justice."

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