Despite the coronavirus pandemic, the 54th annual Virginia Mennonite Relief Sale, scheduled for Oct. 2-3, is determined to go on. But how? That’s a work in careful progress.
Last fall’s sale raised nearly $400,000 for Mennonite Central Committee.
“Activities this year will look quite different than in the past due to COVID restrictions and social distancing recommendations,” said Dave Rush of Harrisonburg, in his 11th year as relief sale chair. “Organizers want to proceed with caution to protect volunteers and everyone else who support the sale.”
The auction of handmade quilts, comforters, art and wooden handcrafted items will be online-only. Auction items will be on display at the Rockingham County Fairgrounds at specified times two days prior to the sale, and bids can be placed at a link at vareliefsale.com.
Planners are exploring the idea of drive-through dinners available for beef and chicken barbecue, Laotian and Latino dishes, Mississippi catfish, Brunswick stew, homemade potato chips and apple butter. Baked goods will likely be on sale at the fairgrounds, but individual congregations are encouraged to hold their own bake sales.
For My Coins Count, congregations are encouraged to have a coins and currency drop-off evening to deposit donations at churches.
The annual Run for Relief 5K Walk-Run hopes to take place in some form Oct. 3 at the fairgrounds or virtually online.
Despite the planning uncertainties, pastor and family counselor Harvey Yoder is already walking every day. He has a goal of reaching 100 miles between now and the sale date to support MCC relief efforts.
Yoder’s SOS (Sharing Our Surplus) Committee is sponsoring a “Hundreds for Hundreds” walk at 6 p.m. Aug. 23. This two-mile walk will begin and end at Community Mennonite Church in Harrisonburg. MCC representatives will be present with information on refugee and other needs and to collect contributions.
“Individuals, families and youth groups can also plan their own walks or other fundraising activities at any time,” Yoder said. “. . . This is not about seeing how successful we Virginians can be at fundraising. Rather, it is about responding to the crying needs of millions whose very lives are at stake due to food shortages, lack of medical care and from the spread of COVID-19, especially in densely populated refugee camps.”
Rush noted that planners are especially driven to encourage giving during MCC’s anniversary 100th year.
“What if we could have 1,000 people each give $1,000?” he asked. “As a math teacher, I won’t tell you what that would total; you can figure it out for yourselves. . . . I believe — despite the many obstacles — that we can top the record $400,000 we donated last year.”