GOSHEN — Handmade quilts, fresh apple fritters and a desire to help raise money for international relief efforts united thousands of people this weekend at the 46th annual Michiana Mennonite Relief Sale.
Families congregated Friday evening, Sept. 27, and Saturday, Sept. 28, at the Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds, where they raised money for the Mennonite Central Committee through auctions and food sales to use in relief efforts around the world.
Pat Sibbald was among hundreds of people who stopped at the commercial exhibit building Saturday to admire quilts that were auctioned off one by one. Sibbald, a quilter from Kalamazoo, has been attending the relief sale for more than 25 years and said that the workmanship and detail of the handmade quilts continue to impress her every time.
“I just kind of stand in awe and amazement at these beautiful quilts,” she said.
Cheryl Zehr of Elkhart said she returns to the relief sale year after year because of the good cause the event supports.
“There are usually a lot of people here that I know,” she added. “My father usually comes out from Ohio, so I usually bring him to see the quilts.”
Other main attractions at the relief sale include homemade crafts, a silent auction, activities for kids and of course, the food. Walking from booth to booth, families were met with sweet and savory smells of cookies, kettle corn, pulled pork sandwiches, beef curry and more.
“That, there, is tradition,” relief sale organizer John Martens said, pointing to a long line of people waiting patiently for pancakes and sausage.
Many of the people Martens meets at the relief sale tell him that the organization’s mission is important to them. Zenebe Abebe, executive director for Mennonite Central Committee Great Lakes, said the relief sale helps people in more than 60 countries.
“We are basically doing three things — disaster relief, sustainable development and then also educating people about peace and justice to resolve conflicts,” he said. “All of the money we raise through these kinds of activities, and this is just one of many, goes to help people around the world.”
Preliminary figures for the relief sale will be tallied early next week. Last year’s sale raised more than $360,000.
“The last couple of years have been sort of rainy and overcast, so this has been really nice,” said Jennifer Steiner, communications coordinator for the organization. “The weather has certainly helped get people out here.”