Virginia Relief Sale: How will it happen this year?

August 20, 2020
by Jim Bishop
Freelance writer based in Harrisonburg, Va.

The global pandemic has dealt nearly everyone the ole one-two punch in our corporate (masked) faces. We may feel at times like we’re down for the count, but not out. This feeling extends to long-scheduled public events that have needed to be canceled, postponed, or re-invented in different shapes or forms.

The annual Virginia Mennonite Relief Sale is a local case in point. The 54th annual relief sale, scheduled for Oct. 2-3, 2020, at the Rockingham County Fairgrounds, is determined to go on, but how? That’s a work in careful progress.

Last fall’s sale raised nearly $400,000 for the worldwide relief, development and peacebuilding programs of Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), Akron, Pa. The first Virginia sale was held Sept. 30, 1967, on the Paul Wenger farm south of Waynesboro, with net proceeds of $6,393 sent to MCC.

“Much of the success of the relief sale each year must be credited to the nearly one thousand volunteers who work like a well-oiled machine to pull off such an event,” said Dave Rush of Harrisonburg, in his 11th year as relief sale chair.

“Activities this year will look quite different than in the past due to COVID restrictions and social distancing recommendations,” Rush stated. “Organizers want to proceed with caution to protect volunteers and everyone else who supports the sale.”

The auction of handmade quilts, wall hangings, knotted comforters and afghans, artwork, and wooden handcrafted items, will be online only. Auction items will be on display at the fairgrounds for persons to view at specified times two days prior to the sale, and then they can place bids online starting Saturday morning through a link to the sale website.

Planners are exploring the idea of drive-through dinners available for popular food items – beef barbeque and BBQ chicken, Laotian and Latino dishes, Mississippi catfish, Brunswick stew, homemade potato chips and apple butter. Baked goods will likely be on sale at the fairgrounds at specified times, but individual congregations are being encouraged to hold their own bake sales.

Every year, area churches and businesses collect coins and currency in large water jugs for the “My Coins Count” project, with funds divided between MCC and local causes. (Last year’s effort raised $24,804). This year, congregations are being encouraged to have a “drop-off evening” when people can drive by their church and deposit their donations.

The annual “Run for Relief” 5K Walk-Run is hoping to take place in some form on Saturday morning, October 3, at the fairgrounds or possibly virtually through an app.

Despite the planning uncertainties, local pastor and family counselor Harvey Yoder isn’t taking things lying down. In fact, he’s already walking every day—with a goal of 100 miles between now and the sale date—on behalf of MCC’s refugee relief efforts.

Yoder’s SOS (Sharing Our Surplus) Committee is sponsoring a special “Hundreds for Hundreds” walk at 6:00 p.m. on 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 by cash, check or credit card. Walkers will be encouraged to wear masks and practice social distancing during the event. Learn more at harvyoder.blogspot.com.

Learn more about the Relief Sale at vareliefsale.com