From its earliest days in 1920, MCC shipped humanitarian aid to international sites needing assistance. The process became more intense with the depravation and desolation of Europe during and after World War II. As the demand for clothing and other materials increased, the meetinghouse previously used by the Ephrata Mennonite congregation at 150 West Fulton Street, Ephrata, Pennsylvania, grew into a location to collect, sort and bale clothing for MCC’s ministries. School kits and Christmas bundles also passed through this facility, continuing until the 1960s.
MCC photo/Leland Haines // MCC photo/John Hamm
Late in the 1960s, John Hostetler, MCC’s material resources director, joined other MCC administrators in seeking a more fitting home for this work. A parcel of land in Ephrata donated by Mahlon and Bertha Stauffer, and just four miles from the MCC Akron offices, became available. The new location was known as the Material Resources Center or MRC.
MCC held a public dedication for the new facility at 517 West Trout Run Road, Ephrata, on May 17, 1970. In its first years, the MRC provided storage and retail space for Self Help Crafts. Self Help Crafts, now Ten Thousand Villages, moved from the MRC in 1987, and continues to provide access to sustainable income and life-changing opportunities to artisans in dozens of countries.
MCC photo/Burton Buller // MCC photo/Jodie Peters
The administrative lodging of the MRC within the MCC structure changed in 1991. In that year, responsibility for the MRC moved from MCC’s international programming to the MCC East Coast regional programming. Throughout these changes, the MRC remained the major shipping point for international humanitarian aid from the U.S. due to its proximity to major East Coast shipping ports.
MCC photo/Jim King // MCC photo/Jim Wiegner
In 1991, the collection and distribution of grocery bags within the U.S. became a project of MCC East Coast and the Paradise Sewing Room moved to the MRC. The old warehouse was enlarged under the new administration in 2000.
Some patterns have persisted since the beginning of the MRC. Then, as now, volunteers accomplish much of the work. Decades old activities such as quilting, baling comforters and preparing school kits, infant care kits, relief kits and hygiene kits continue today.
MCC photo/Name Here
Changing needs among MCC’s international partners meant some activities were discontinued. These days, no one rolls bandages for leprosy hospitals. Today, no one sorts and folds clothing to be sent to MCC’s international partners.
MCC photo // MCC photo/Diana Voth
However, some new activities emerged to capture volunteer energy. Recycling became a means of inviting volunteers to contribute to the financial support of MCC. In 2000, this activity greatly increased when the MCC Thrift shop in Ephrata began a used bookstore and needed to find an outlet for unsold books. In addition, prisoner care kits were created in 2017 to respond to a growing need for personal hygiene items for those incarcerated in Philadelphia prisons.
MCC photo/Frederick Yocum // MCC photo/Brenda Burkholder
Over the years, the numbers of volunteers at the MRC have increased. Many years tallied well over 10,000 volunteer-days. The Lancaster area Old Order Amish community continues to be the single largest volunteer group each year.
MCC photos/Diana Voth
Thanks to dedicated volunteers and donors from Pennsylvania and surrounding states, MCC’s East Coast region generates about 70% of the U.S. humanitarian aid that MCC ships internationally.
Humanitarian aid is not MCC’s largest work in the 21st century. It is, however, MCC’s oldest work and in many ways among its most visible work. The MRC remains a venue inviting volunteers – of almost any age and ability level – to contribute to MCC’s relief, development and peace ministries offered in many locations around the world “in the Name of Christ.”
MCC photo/Tony Siemen // MCC photo/Marilyn Peters
Kenneth Sensenig serves as Assistant Director for MCC East Coast. He specializes in MCC history and resides in Ephrata, Pennsylvania.
The Ephrata MRC remains open during the pandemic with strategies in place to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Volunteers are needed as we continue to process recycling donations and prepare to ship humanitarian aid to our partners in need around the world. To get involved, please email EastCoastMRC@mcc.org or call (717) 733-2847.