Marv Nisly and Glenn Zendt, both EMU alumni, display a polished stainless steel with a grapevine design custom fire ring, 36" in diameter and 16" tall, designed by Denay True and donated by Ben and Denay True, at the Virginia Mennonite Relief Sale Oct. 2. Linford Berry of Mountain Valley Auctions is the auctioneer. (Photos by Jim Bishop)

Virginia relief sale unmasks generous spirit

Jim Bishop ’67 traded in his “Bishop’s Mantle” pen and switched hats as well to contribute this coverage of the Oct. 1-2 Virginia Mennonite Relief Sale. He also was the photographer (another hat switch!). Below is a longer version of the “good news” that appeared in the local newspaper, the Daily News-Record. Several alumni are named in the article.

An early summer mix of pleasant temperatures and rainfall in the Shenandoah Valley, followed by nearly two months of dry conditions, transformed into warm fall weather just in time for the 55th annual Virginia Mennonite Relief Sale Friday night and Saturday, Oct. 1-2, at the Rockingham County Fairgrounds.

 Dave Detrow, EMU registrar, gets a sticker after donating to the “S.O.S” refugee aid program from Patty Skelton, with Everence.

This year’s sale raised a preliminary figure of $355,000 for the worldwide relief, service and peacebuilding program of the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC). Despite certain restrictions in fund-raising brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, last year’s effort raised $333,931; final actual proceeds in 2019 totaled $381,033.

“Once all expense reports are finalized and additional funds come in, our total receipts will likely exceed the total funds raised this weekend,” said Dave Rush of Harrisonburg. “We had a lot of activity and received positive comments about the online bidding and video available this year.”

Rush noted that there were winning bidders on line from 9 different states, adding: “One man won top bid on a wood crafted item while in a plane flying from Maine to the West Coast.”


The Rain Pickers, an all-EMU alumni band, perform on Friday evening. From left: Madeline Reist-Miller, Seth Stauffer, Perry Blosser, Jesse Reist-Miller.

Activities began Friday evening with a barbecued pork barbeque dinner, special music by a variety of local groups and genres and the start of the live and silent auction that resumed Saturday morning and ran through early afternoon.

The annual auction of handmade quilts, wall hangings, knotted comforters, artwork and wooden handcrafted items accounted for $138,988 of the total funds raised.

Vi Miller, of Harrisonburg, looks at quilts to be auctioned.

An oak side table with drawer and drawer made and donated by Norman and Grace Lambert of North Carolina brought in $5,700. Other high bid items included: an anonymously-donated copper applebutter kettle that went for $4,500; a 90” x  90” feed sack quilt made and donated by Mary Guntz of Vermont went for $4,100; a seven-drawer lingerie chest of maple and walnut made and donated by Dwight and Trella Kauffman sold for $3,200; a 101” x 117” Mariner’s Compass quilt donated by Friends of the Relief Sale went for $3,100, a 102” x  92” Park Plaza quilt by Evie King and Evie McPhee brought $3,000, and a 90” x 90” Hunter’s Star quilt pieced and machine-quilted by Lorraine Mooney and donated by Williamsburg Mennonite Church went for $3,000. There were 37 items that brought $1,000 or more; 23 of these were quilts.

Total funds raised from the annual “Our Coins Count” project were $16,052, with more funds expected to come in from area congregations, businesses and other groups. Coins and currency were collected in large water jugs for weeks, then the containers were brought to the sale for sorting and tabulating done by employees of Park View Federal Credit Union.  The funds will be evenly divided between MCC and Virginia Mennonite Missions (VMM) to purchase classroom supplies for church-related schools in rural Zambia (MCC) and family discipleship ministries in Latino congregations and scripture-based music ministries through Kids’ Klub programs in the U.S. (VMM).

This year’s “special projects” offering raised $3,300 to be divided equally between two area organizations – a WARM cold weather shelter in Waynesboro, Va., for homeless persons or at imminent risk of homelessness and to assist “People Helping People,” an ecumenical financial aid program supported by local faith communities.

Annually since 2017, a relief sale committee has promoted additional giving through a “S.O.S (Sharing Our Surplus)” campaign spearheaded by local pastor, counselor and community advocate Harvey Yoder. A special table was again staffed by Everence financial volunteers during the sale for people to donate money to MCC’s work with refugees around the world. Yoder reported that approximately $40,000 came in for this initiative this year. A total of more than $150,000 has been raised through S.O.S over the past five years.

A return of the popular donuts caused relief sale patrons of all ages to have glazed looks on their faces as Strite’s Donuts of Harrisonburg brought their donut-making operation on site and sold some 6,000 of their confectionary delights.

 Joy Driver volunteers with Strite’s Donuts.

Persons also formed long lines to purchase quantities of Brunswick stew, with 165 gallons made in vats on the fairground premises by members of Springdale Mennonite Church in Augusta County.

Other homemade food items on display around the fairgrounds included baked goods, 1,200 barbecued chicken halves, cider, fresh produce, kettle-cooked potato chips and international fare including Indian food and lamb.

 Dave Rush, in his 12th year as relief sale chair, is enthused over this year’s fund-raising effort.

“It was good to be back (at the relief sale),” Rush said. “We had beautiful weather and fun together. A huge ‘thank you’ to the many volunteers who gave their time and energy to make this event possible. Also, many thanks to the donors and buyers, and for a cooperative spirit expressed by those who wore masks indoors,” he added. “Every year it brings me much joy to see us all work together to raise money for MCC in the name of Christ.” impressed with the way so many people come together in a spirit of unity, both the volunteer effort and the generous giving to the work of MCC,” Rush said. “Through this event, we work together to help others around the world whom Jesus calls us to serve.”

MCC, based in Akron, Pa., is a worldwide ministry of Anabaptist churches that share God’s love and compassion with people at home and around the world to ease oppression, poverty and conflict. They lead natural disaster relief efforts, community development and peace work in more than 50 countries.  The first Virginia Relief Sale took place Sept. 30, 1967, on the farm of Paul Wenger in Augusta County. Net proceeds of $6,393 were sent to MCC.     

Join the Discussion on “Virginia relief sale unmasks generous spirit

  1. What strikes me every year, while “covering” this remarkable all-volunteer event and what it accomplishes in a day and a half of service to the disenfranchised, is the way this large group puts diverse theological and practices aside, raises a hefty sum of funds for local and worldwide dire needs. Why can’t these same deeply committed folk do the same in the name of “everyday ministry”? While they’re at it, why not start worship services and business meetings at church with a group line dance? The result may be unexpected and remarkable. Just sayin’ . . .

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