“Going once, going twice, sold to bidder number 14 for $700!” announces auctioneer Merle Diem through the microphone at the Georgia National Fairgrounds in Perry, Ga. It’s Saturday, September 15, and the Peach Cobbler Mennonite Relief Auction (PCMRA) has begun its 19th annual relief sale. But what sold for $700? Peach cobbler, of course!
Relief sales, like the PCMRA, are annual events that raise funds for Mennonite Central Committee (MCC)’s relief, development and peace work around the world. Relief sales attract thousands of people at locations throughout Canada and the U.S.
With the south being known for its juicy peaches and its delicious cobbler, the name of this relief sale could not be more fitting. Every year, to set the tone for the rest of the day, a homemade peach cobbler is the opening auction item. In total, these auctioned cobblers have raised $5,670 for MCC over the life of the sale. Peach cobbler is also a feature at the noon meal on Saturday.
Bidder number 14 and buyer of the peach cobbler this year was Linda Corra. Originally from northeast Pa., she moved to Atlanta, Ga., and has attended Berea Mennonite Church, also in Atlanta, for seven years. She loves the “strong feeling of community” at the congregation. This is clear from the many church members involved in planning the PCMRA every year, a project of the church, and the other church and community members who make the sale possible.
“The first few years I attended the sale, an older gentleman [Benjamin Martin] bid over $500 for the cobbler [each year]. To be honest, I couldn't believe he would do it every year. But what that would do is set the tone for the auction and the special project donations,” says Corra.
(Photo courtesy of Brenda Shelby)
However, three years ago, Martin was unable to attend the sale. Corra spoke with Brenda Shelby, a member of Berea since 1978, who bakes the special peach cobbler every year and serves as the church and relief sale treasurer. “We all sort of panicked. I told Brenda, I would bid with her to $600. Well I got it! The next year the gentleman showed up again, but then not this year. I told Brenda I really liked doing it and would do it again,” states Corra.
But what makes the peach cobbler special? Shelby says it’s the crust and the cinnamon, one of her favorite spices. A work of art, the crust of the cobbler has a basket-weave pattern and comes in a dish marked with the sale information. “The first dish was a peach-colored pie plate and then I have been using various sizes of baking dishes. I vary the recipe by the size of the dish… I always weave the crust,” she states.
Shelby’s been baking the cobbler since the first auction in 2000. She prays over each one that it would not only come out good but that it would be a blessing to the people at the auction and touch lives through the work of MCC. At MCC relief sales, the sale of food and auction items, like this peach cobbler, help people in need both locally and globally simply have enough food to be healthy and live lives of dignity.
Corra enjoys bidding on the cobbler. “I get a beautiful ceramic baking dish full of homemade peach cobbler that is delicious.” The cobbler is big enough to share, and she gives a third of it to her friend who introduced her to Berea, eats a third over the week and freezes the rest for “later treats.”
“The biggest treat, though, is when we add all the money up that we will give to MCC. [MCC’s] work throughout the world is amazing. It's a true privilege to buy the cobbler and work at the sale!” says Corra.
This year, the PCMRA raised nearly $42,000 for MCC. The auction part raised $14,000 with a tiny nativity set selling for $1,100, one of the highest selling items. Generating $17,000, was this year’s special project focusing on trauma recovery for victims of ethnic and political violence and natural disasters. The special project has raised more than the auction every year.
“I love what MCC does around the world. The best way for me to support this is through raising money. I can make quilts and cobbler and other people like them and so it makes all of us happy,” states Shelby.
From the kitchen of Brenda Shelby
- 3 c. fresh peaches
- 1 c. sugar (less if using canned peaches)
- pinch of salt
- 1 egg (well beaten)
- 1 tsp. flour
- 1 stick of butter
- 1 pie pastry
Combine peaches, sugar, salt, egg and flour. Place them into a 9 x 13 in. pan. Dot with pads of butter. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Cut pastry into strips and lay on top. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.
Each year, volunteers make quilts, build furniture and bake bread and pies to sell at relief sales in North America. They organize sporting and music events and prepare delicious local food specialties such as farmer sausage in Manitoba, strawberry pie in Pennsylvania, suya chicken in California, verenike in Kansas, pasties in Michigan and spring rolls in Ontario.
Buyers add to the success of each sale when they join in the fun, buy auction items and enjoy the food all for a good cause. For more information on how to get involved and to find a relief sale near you, visit mcc.org/relief-sales.