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With 53 countries to choose from, it's not difficult for the Mennonite Central Committee to find somewhere to lend help. The devastating earthquakes that struck Haiti this year, however, have given MCC a new focal point for its
"Haiti was one of our big ones this past year and although everyone was doing Haiti, we were quite involved with that at Connections," Laurel Horst said.
On Aug. 6-7, MCC will hold its 45th annual relief sale and auctions to raise money for charity.
Horst, a former MCC auction board member, said she finds it easy to support the auction because the organization is one of the first to supply blankets and food to disaster victims, but it also is there for "the long haul."
"After the majority of the people come home, (MCC) is there helping with emotions and that type of thing also,"
Horst referenced the 2004 tsunami that hit many Asian countries as one example of MCC's lasting impact.
"MCC is still working things out there, too," she said.
Though the benefit auction draws attention to the needy, by no means is it a somber event.
"It just became the thing to do the first Saturday in August," Horst said. "Friday night especially seems to be a reunion time when you catch up with families and you also catch up with people you went to school with or worked with."
Festivities begin Thursday evening on the Central Christian Schools campus with a youth night held in conjunction with Steve Wingfield Ministries. Board Vice President Lonita Mast said the evening will be filled with contemporary music, featuring the local band Polen.
Food vendors will be open Friday and a more family-oriented fun night will take place under the tent, less action-packed than the hustle and bustle of Saturday.
Activities begin at 7 a.m. Saturday, with breakfast served on campus and those who haven't stuffed themselves too much can take part in the "Run for Relief" 5k race. At 9 a.m. the art and collectibles and wood auctions begin. The quilt auction begins at 10 a.m.
Items at the auctions have been collected over the year by volunteers like Horst, who visits about 130 furniture retailers and woodworking businesses to gather donations for the wood auction. Horst and her husband team up to supply the auction. She secures the donations while her husband catalogues them the first week in July.
"If you have a passion for it and you know what the money is going for, it's not hard," Horst said.
Apparently, Horst isn't the only person who holds this viewpoint: She said of all the businesses she inquires for donations, about 75 percent donate something. Horst has confirmed high chairs, cabinets, tables, beds and several other items for the 2010 wood auction.
Quilts have been a big hit in the sale, too. Beth Miller, who works with public relations for the sale, said a group of four women work on a quilt that always catches patrons' attention.
"They go overboard -- you know what I mean. They work really hard. The quilt almost tops the sale every year,"
The festival-like event makes passing along the charitable tradition easy. Because families spend the day together, children watch their parents volunteer, donating food, time, hand-made items and having fun while doing it.
"This instills in younger ones the ideas of volunteering and where your priorities are," Horst said.
Mast, who has served on the board for more than eight years, said she sees the sale as a community effort. A lot of work goes into the sale, with writing press releases, creating radio ads, gathering and taking inventory of donations, baking and organizing.
"On sale day, I'm usually wherever we need help. I fill in wherever. All the board members are kind of like that ... everybody pitches in where we need to pitch in."
For more information about the event, visit www.ohiomccreliefsale.org.