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Mennonite Relief Sale has become an institution in and of itself

Mennonite Central Committee (MCC)

Since 1967, New Hamburg has played host to the Mennonite Relief Sale, with quilts, food and homemade goods on the selling block for a good cause.

For the past 50 years, the proceeds from the sale go to the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) for their work in relief, development and peace building around the world, and this year is no different.

MCC executive director Rick Cober Bauman says the sale is a perfect combination of traditions and fresh ideas – the driving force behind keeping the sale in business for so long.

“It is a deep, deep tradition that is continuing this year. Lots of the same things that have been carrying us through for 50 years, but a lot of new things as well,” he said ahead of the May 27 to 28 event.

Some of those traditions include the famed quilt sale, with quilts made by members of the community and donated. This year will actually mark the end of a five-decade tradition at the quilt sale.

“There was a dear woman who just died a few weeks ago who has made a quilt for every sale from the very first one, her name was Myrtle Horscht, and she is from the Elmira area. She in fact has two quilts in this year, even though she has passed away. She had made them ahead of time. There is that kind of deep dedication and devotion over the years that has really endured,” said Cober Bauman.

Some of the new additions to the sale come from different cultural communities in the Waterloo Region. Cober Bauman says the popularity of different ethnic foods at the two-day event rivals that of the traditional fare.

“Really, this is about a broad range of people, not only the Mennonites that have been in Waterloo Region for hundreds of years, but also about the churches who represent Asian communities who have come to Canada and  Latin American communities that have come to Canada,” he said. “So, they are selling papusa and spring rolls, so the types of food available that day has grown quite dramatically and that is in part because of the diversity of the Mennonite community has grown over the last 50 years as well.  It has been exciting to see the new communities, even though they don’t make apple pie or quilts, but say, ‘we could get into this. We do other things that are part of our culture.’ It has really taken off. The lineups at the spring rolls and the papusas are just as daunting as they are for the fritters.”

He also has good memories of the relief sale dating back these 50 years.

“I wasn’t at the first sale, but I was at the second one and then as a very young boy, probably around 1970, I was asked to sell milk like the kid sells peanuts at a baseball game,” he shared with a laugh. “I got some cartons of white or chocolate milk for people who didn’t want to leave their seats, even as the arena got warmer during the day because they didn’t want to miss buying their quilt or bidding on their quilts. I have very fond memories, and I am sure others have very fond memories as well.”

To mark the 50th Mennonite Relief Sale, the MCC has added an extra initiative to raise a bit of side money, specifically for Syria.

“We want to raise an extra $50,000 exclusively for response in Syria, not for the refugees coming here – that has been well supported – what about those millions of people that are still there?” he asked. “This will make it more likely that people who have been displaced, would be able to return home. We are very excited. A local restaurateur has agreed to provide baklava, and people will be invited to make a donation, and come and have a piece of baklava, to go towards this $50,000.”

The sale runs on May 27 and 28, starting with a seat sale and quilt preview on the 27th at 5 p.m., a barbecue dinner at 6 p.m. and a silent auction starting at 7 p.m. Food vendors will be on hand.

The next day has a pancake breakfast, children’s activities, the quilt sale itself, outdoor auctions and a Run 4 Relief.

For more information on the sale, visit www.nhmrs.com.

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