With the whir of sewing machines, the snip of scissors and the hum of conversation as music to work by, volunteers across two continents completed more than 9,400 comforters as part of Mennonite Central Committee’s (MCC) Great Winter Warm-up in January.
The total exceeded the goal of 6,500 comforters that organizers set for the event. The Great Winter Warm-up comforters will jump-start the collection of more than 50,000 comforters that MCC sends each year to people in crisis around the world.
Although the event centered around making comforters on Jan. 18, organizers counted contributions from anyone who made comforters specifically for Great Winter Warm-up, regardless of the day.
Nine hundred comforters already have been shipped to Puerto Rico on Jan. 29, where MCC is working with Mennonite Disaster Service to help people affected by multiple earthquakes in January.
“Surpassing the 6,500 goal is an incredible feat, but in some ways is not surprising. This is what our supporters do,” said Ann Graber Hershberger, interim associate executive director of MCC U.S. “The tireless persistence and resourcefulness of volunteers, combined with diligent staff creativity and organization, made this possible. On behalf of people everywhere who have been comforted by this labor of love – thank you!”
MCC photo/Jim Wiegner
The day started early with events in Europe and continued in the U.S. and Canada. Despite the wintry weather in numerous locations, volunteers came to more than 100 locations – churches, offices, homes.
At Salem Mennonite Church in Kidron, Ohio, about 280 volunteers of all ages came together to transform colorful fabric into cozy comforters.
“I was there when we reached 100 completed comforters,” said Sara Obri, an MCC Great Lakes board member from Twinsburg, Ohio, “and everyone put their needle and thread down to clap and cheer.” The group went on to finish 122 comforters.
“Surpassing the 6,500 goal is an incredible feat, but in some ways is not surprising. This is what our supporters do ... On behalf of people everywhere who have been comforted by this labor of love – thank you!”
- Ann Graber Hershberger, interim associate executive director of MCC U.S.
The number 100 was significant to them and to MCC who, in 2020, celebrates 100 years of ministry ‒ today providing relief, supporting sustainable development and encouraging peace in more than 50 countries. The Great Winter Warm-up was the first big event of the centennial year.
“It was pretty humbling, awesome and inspiring to be part of such a big project with people gathering all over the world to make, knot, finish and send comforters to those in need throughout the world,” said Suzanne Stauffer from First Mennonite Church in Sugarcreek, Ohio.
Not only did making comforters connect volunteers with recipients in another country, it also brought people together in their own communities. In San Francisco, California, Karen Kreider Yoder was delighted by the variety of people who came to make comforters at her house.
“We had neighbors and children, men, and extended family and friends across town who participated. At one of our gatherings, one woman was the designated needle threader. That was her job, and she kept right up with the demand, ready with a new threaded needle as needed,” Kreider Yoder said.
Every one of the comforters completed during the event is important, said Tom Wenger, MCC U.S. Material Resources coordinator.
“Many of the people receiving these comforters have been displaced from their homes, needing to flee for their lives and leaving most of their possessions behind,” Wenger said. “These beautiful, handmade comforters provide some warmth and demonstrate God’s love by showing that somebody cares for them.”
With more than 70 million people displaced in the world today, the need for relief and hope is growing. Last year, MCC shipped more than 53,000 comforters to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Haiti, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Malawi, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea), Serbia, Syria and Ukraine as well as throughout the U.S. and Canada.
The number of comforter requests MCC receives from its partner organizations is greater than the number of comforters it can provide, so more comforters are needed this year. Learn more about the comforters we send.
Emily Jones is a freelance writer from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and Linda Espenshade is news coordinator for MCC U.S