Amanda Helfrich (left) and Becca Longenecker help prepare donuts for sale at the Virginia Mennonite Relief Sale on Saturday, Oct. 5. Helfrich said 19 EMU students volunteered to help prepare over 14,000 donuts. (Photo by Michael Sheeler)

Sunny skies for 1,000 volunteers behind Virginia Mennonite Relief Sale

The calendar declared that it’s autumn, but Mother Nature decided to stick with summer at least one more weekend, providing a warm backdrop for heated bidding and buying at the 47th annual Virginia Mennonite Relief Sale.

Sunny skies prevailed and temperatures topped out at 85 degrees by the height of the sale early Saturday afternoon. Activities began Friday evening, Oct. 4, at the Rockingham County Fairgrounds with nearly 1,000 volunteers giving of their time, talents and toil.

This year’s sale netted about $303,456 for the worldwide relief and service program of the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC). Last year’s effort raised a record $307,000.

Declared a huge success

“It was a great day and a huge success, thanks to the volunteers and persons who came to spend their money to support the work of MCC,” said Dave Rush of Harrisonburg, relief sale chair.

“We expect that once all reports are finalized that more funds will be forwarded to MCC than last year, as some of our operating expenses were down and we received some additional sponsor money this year,” he added.

The money raised included $25,404 – down slightly from last year’s $30,737 – from the annual “Penny Power” project, in which area congregations, schools, homes and businesses collect coins and currency in large water jugs for weeks and bring their containers to the sale for sorting and tabulating done by employees of Park View Federal Credit Union.

Ridgeway Mennonite Church in Harrisonburg headed the list of 37 participating congregations with $3,057.76, followed by Park View Mennonite Church with $2,262.91 and Mountain View Mennonite Church, Lyndhurst, with $1,761.57.

The final Penny Power total is expected to be higher with some matching funds and other gifts expected to come in, according to Rush.

Penny Power funds will be divided equally between Mennonite Central Committee and Virginia Mennonite Missions. The money will assist partner organizations in numerous places around the world that are helping to meet the needs of thousands of displaced people, supporting work in places like Ecuador, Haiti, Indonesia, Jordan and Thailand.

$5,000 more raised by auction of handcrafted items

The annual auction of handmade quilts, wall hangings, knotted comforters and afghans, artwork and wooden handcrafted items accounted for $117,603 of the total funds raised, up more than $5,000 over last year.

The highest bid item at the auction was a “Lincoln’s Platform” wall hanging, appliqued and pieced by Carolyn Bontrager of Harrisonburg and quilted by Charlotte Swope of Linville that went for $4,500.

A 90” x 108” off-white feathers and star quilt completed by 94-year-old Anna May Burkholder of Waynesboro took the highest quilt bid of $4,000. Burkholder has made a quilt every year except one since the sale began in 1967; this was her last. Sixteen quilts went for $1,000 or more.

A Shaker-style slant top walnut writing desk on frame, made of walnut with oiled finish by Norman Lambert of North Carolina, was sold for $3,500.

The homemade glazed donut operation got under way at 3 a.m. Saturday, with 14,500 of the confectionary delights sold out by half past noon.

Other popular food items included 180 gallons of Brunswick stew made on the premises by members of Springdale and Mountain View Mennonite churches in Augusta County, 3,500 barbecued chicken halves, chili, Laotian and Indian dishes, chicken corn soup, homemade potato chips, caramel popcorn, apple butter and fresh cider.

“We had a great Friday evening, followed by a beautiful, although very warm, Saturday,” Rush said. “I saw a lot of people having a fun time together. It was a great experience in community-building.”

And that’s what gives relief sale chairman Dave a major rush.