Sisters Stitch for Virginia Relief Sale

Brownie and Gladys Driver of Harrisonburg say they feel “twice blessed” for their volunteer efforts on behalf of the 41st annual Virginia Mennonite Relief Sale held Friday evening and Saturday, Oct. 5-6, at the Rockingham County Fairgrounds.

Log Cabin Cross quilted wall hanging
Auctioneer H.L. Wenger of Harrisonburg calls for bids on Brownie and Gladys Driver’s Log Cabin Cross quilted wall hanging, a duplicate of one the sisters made earlier that was given to Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Photo by Jim Bishop

A 21″ by 31″ quilted wall hanging, “Log Cabin Cross,” the sisters made this summer to donate to the relief sale instead was purchased by EMU as a gift to Rev. Desmond Tutu. The Anglican Archbishop was in Harrisonburg on Sept. 21 – the International Day of Peace – to receive an award from the Gandhi Center for Global Nonviolence at James Madison University in recognition of his peacemaking work in his native South Africa.

EMU President Loren Swartzendruber and other EMU officials participated in a tree-planting ceremony at the Gandhi Center earlier that day and gave the Nobel Laureate the Drivers’ handmade wall hanging.

The $500 EMU paid for the piece was donated to Mennonite Central Committee, the worldwide relief and service agency based in Akron, Pa.

Back to Work

In a two-week period immediately following, the Driver sisters fashioned a second identical Log Cabin Cross wall hanging that went for $525 during Saturday’s auction.

The Driver sisters, residents of Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community, have created paintings, quilts, comforters and wall hangings to donate to the sale every year since the event began in 1967. “It’s something we can do,” Gladys Driver said. “We’d feel like something was missing if we didn’t participate in this way.”

This year’s sale raised $310,000 in gross receipts for Mennonite Central Committee, nearly identical to last year’s sale.

‘Penny Power’ Project

These funds include approximately $21,835 for the “Penny Power” project, initiated in 2001, in which area congregations and other groups collect coins and currency in large water jugs for weeks or months and bring their containers to the sale for sorting and tabulating.

The “Penny Power” funds will be divided equally between MCC and Virginia Mennonite Board of Missions. MCC’s portion will be used to minister to AIDS orphans and vulnerable children in 11 countries. VMBM will use its portion to support the ministry of Micah, Adam and Isaiah Riddle, children of missionaries Chris and Melody Riddle in Italy.

An auction of handmade quilts, wall hangings, knotted comforters and afghans, artwork and wooden handcrafted items accounted for $120,000 of the total funds raised.

$1,000 or More

Around 19 items went for $1,000 or more.

A wall hanging designed and pieced by Carmen Wyse of Community Mennonite Church and quilted by Grace Mumaw of Lindale Mennonite Church that was made from feed sacks of the 1930s and 1940s went for $6,100.

A 13th edition of the “Harmonia Sacra” songbook created by Joseph Funk and published in 1869 went for $1,200.

EMU student Ingrid Johnson
There’s no glazed expression for first-year EMU student Ingrid Johnson, one of many volunteers in the homemade donut operation. The process started at midnight, and persons worked three-hour shifts in making 15,000 of the confectionery delights. Photo by Jim Bishop

Again this year the venue included such popular food items as 15,000 homemade glazed donuts, 150 gallons of Brunswick stew made on the premises by members of Springdale and Mt. View Mennonite churches in Augusta County, 3,000 barbecued chicken halves, homemade potato chips and apple butter and cider.

Live Radio Broadcast

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. The broadcast ended with the audience joining in singing “606” (now #118 in the Brethren-Mennonite hymnal), “Praise God from Whom all Blessings Flow.”

“This was an experiment of sorts, an attempt to bring back ‘old-time radio’ that you seldom hear anymore while trying to relate some of the area Mennonites’ church’s distinctives and traditions,” said Hal Dubois, co-host of the show.

“The sale auction seemed a bit different this year in that there weren’t a lot of ‘big ticket’ items, said Marvin Nisly, relief sale chair. “No quilt went for more than $4,000, yet at the same time the auction generated almost the same amount as last year.

Nisly thought the unseasonably warm weather helped draw “a larger than usual crowd,” adding: “I’m always amazed at the way everything comes together [at the sale] and the amount of good will that is generated as people support this relief effort.”

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