For the past 60 years people have gathered across the U.S. and Canada to auction off quilts, sell furniture, artisanal crafts, and other various items. Relief sales offer activities for children, local music, and of course Mennonite food specialties! All with the goal to raise funds for MCC’s relief, development and peace work around the world.
When COVID-19 put a halt to the majority of in person gatherings, it made it nearly impossible to carry on with relief sales ’as normal’. However, Washington and Oregon relief sale committees did not let this obstacle stop them. Knowing that it was better to keep their communities safe they started to plan virtual relief sales.
Women shopping at the Just Cause Fair trade booth. Photo/ Don Bacher
The Oregon Mennonite festival for World Relief Communications Coordinator & Website Manager, Hilary Shirk, says that in order to succeed, “We had to do a massive mailer campaign to migrate folks online to sign up for our e-newsletter or follow us on Facebook to get the information about the event that would normally be fed to folks through their church bulletins and announcements.”
"I was honored to participate in this unique experience. I appreciate how we came together during these difficult times to make the festival happen." -Volunteer, Andrew Simon
With the goal to have a successful sale they enlisted the help of over 100 volunteers including bakers, meal prep, and on-site volunteers who helped with loading cars and other logistics.
Pre- Ordered baked goods and food items prepared for pick up. Photo/ Don Bacher
Washington and Oregon Relief sale committees created online platforms to auction off sale items where participants could bid online and donate to MCC projects. They also organized and offered homemade food items for pre-order and pick-up.
First time volunteer Andrew Simon from Portland, OR says, “I was honored to participate in this unique experience. It brought me joy to see so many happy eyes and masked faces. I appreciate how we came together during these difficult times to make the festival happen."
"Even though we can't physically come together, I felt more community than I have in years at this festival."
- Volunteer, Florence Gingerich
Reflecting on the event Shirk says, “What surprised me most is just how much people enjoyed the limited interaction of coming to the church to pick up the food from their cars. Florence Gingrich said, ‘Even though we can't physically come together, I felt more community than I have in years at this festival.’ That was special to hear. I think folks really appreciated the extra effort in such an isolating world we are living in.”
Volunteer Gerry Langstraat from Corvallis, OR. Photo/ Don Bacher
Even with the disadvantage of not beginning with a robust online audience or consistent online presence both relief sale committees set ambitious fundraising goals that either matched previous years or exceeded them.
And due to the generosity of their communities both sales surpassed their fundraising goals by more than $20,000 each!
Both relief sales worked diligently to honor and celebrate MCC in this unusual centennial year. On behalf of MCC’s global partners, we say Thank You for the creativity of the relief sale boards and volunteers to raise funds in new ways!
Lives are changed in vulnerable communities because they have access to clean water, sanitation supplies, and PPE – because of gifts to MCC through individuals, churches and relief sales.
Thank You for extending God’s love and compassion around the world through MCC!