Photo: Marleen Reinhardt, left, helps Chloe Obri, age 3, thread a needle so she can knot a comforter. Isaac Obri, age 5, works with his mother, Sara Obri, in the background. They joined hundreds of volunteers at Salem Mennonite Church in Kidron, Ohio, for the Great Winter Warm-up event. MCC photo/Jennifer Steiner
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 9,504 comforters as part of Mennonite Central Committee’s (MCC) Great Winter Warm-up in January.
The total exceeded the goal of 6,500 comforters organizers set for the event. The Great Winter Warm-up comforters will jump-start the collection of more than 50,000 comforters 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 were shipped Jan. 29 to Puerto Rico, 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,” says Ann Graber Hershberger, interim associate executive director of MCC U.S.
The day started early with events in Europe and continued in the United States 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,” says 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.
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.
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.
Every one of the comforters completed during the event is important, says 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 says. “These beautiful, handmade comforters provide some warmth and demonstrate God’s love by showing that somebody cares for them.”