Celebrating 50 Years with Stories of MCC Sask at Work

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good Mennonite food at Sale
[Photo Credits for all photos on this page - Howard Giles]

MCCS Relief Auction Sales


Auctioneer and helpers at work - Photo Credit - Howard Giles

How can you raise a lot of money for a good cause, have fun, visit with friends, enjoy good food and be part of a carnival? The right answer is a no brainer - participate in the MCC Saskatchewan (MCCS) Relief Sale and Auction!

The Annual MCCS Relief Sale and Auction provides good food, great fun, a chance to renew friendships, work with like minded volunteers, and most importantly an opportunity to provide a helping hand to those in need. Many dozens of volunteers and hundreds of volunteer hours go into a sale. Volunteers are those who create crafts and quilts, those who prepare and serve food, those who plan and organize, those who make sales and gather goods for sale. . . .

wood carved toys for the Silent Auction . . .. Those who set up and take down, those who participate in advertising, fundraising and allocating funds. Though the work is done by volunteers there are still cost for rent, advertising, insurance, posters and brochures. In 2008 it cost $40,014 to put on the sale. Those costs are usually met by pre-sale fundraising like suppers, car washes, silent auctions, and special congregational events. Before the sales the planning committee endeavours to cover sale costs so that all funds raised at the sale goes to MCCS programmes.

Relief Auction Sales -Beginnings

The very first relief auction sale to help the needy was held Herbert, Saskatchewan, on December 1920 and it raised $1,100, a considerable sum in those days. However, it was a one-time relief sale. The sale actually raised funds for the Canadian Central Committee (CCC) which was formed in Canada in 1920 much like the MCC which formed in USA. The purpose of both was to help with relief in the newly formed Soviet Union and with those suffering in the aftermath of the First World War. CCC channeled its funds to MCC which at that time was the only organization serving overseas.

Annual well-organized auction centred relief sales for MCC began in 1957 in a barnyard near Morgantown, Pennsylvania. From this first annual relief sale a people's movement has grown to an annual relief festival and sale to incorporate activities in each region and province of the North American Mennonite constituency.

In 1967 in New Hamburg, a town in the Regional Municipality of Waterloo, Ontario, began the first of the annual relief sales in Canada.

taking a bid number for the Relief Sale, Saskatoon

In 1970 Saskatchewan hosted its first Relief Sale which was held in Saskatoon. Then in 1973 Saskatchewan was the first province in Canada to hold two sales per year with Swift Current holding sales until 1989.

Today 12 different Relief Sales are held in five different Canadian provinces and the 43 sales in Canada and the USA raise over five million dollars annually. One important consequence of these Relief Sales is to have Anabaptist/ Mennonites from many different denominations working together for a common purpose of helping the needy. MCCC in 2012 had eight participating Mennonite and Brethren in Christ denominations.

Saskatchewan Relief Sales - General

Relief Sales are in integral part of MCCC and the provincial organizations. For those who contribute to and invest themselves in the Relief Sales MCC is close to the heart of what it means to be Mennonite or Brethren in Christ.

plants for sale at the Relief Sale and Auction

Women from the very beginning have played a large role in all the relief sales because they often did not work outside the home for pay. They worked throughout the year making the quilts and other needle work items, then did most of the baking in preparation for the sale day, staffed most of the food booth, grew plants for the plant sales, spent endless hours on different craft items, were the major workers for Ten Thousand Villages, served on the committees, and did a lot of clean up at the sale's end.

The Relief Auction Sales both generate revenue and incur expenses. The funds transferred to MCCS represent the total of all sources of income less expenses and a reserve fund. The finances of the annual Auction Relief Sale begins with a modest reserve fund which is added to as local fundraises are held. These funds are used to pay for the expenses of rent, advertising and sale day costs. As a consequence of the sale expenses being prepaid, the money raised at the day of the Sale is then in general directed without deductions to MCCS.

Relief Auctions Sales revenue in 1975 was $35,466.85 from Saskatoon and $16,800.00 from the Swift Current for a total of $52,266.85. The total budget of MCCS in 1975 was $366,459.00. Thus the sales contributed 14.3% of its budget. However, by 2009 the MCCS budget had grown to $3,295,300.00 but the Saskatoon sale only generated $76,000.00 which is only 2.3% of the MCCS budget. It is clear that in the 1970s and 80s the Relief Sales were a significant contributor to the MCCS budget, but by the 21st century they contribute only modestly. However, they remain a significant out let for Mennonite quilters and crafts workers who contribute many dozens of handmade items some of which fetch over $2,000 in the auction. The event also provides a wonderful experience for volunteers and for social interactions.

rug weaving demonstration at Relief Sale

The Annual Relief Sales not only raise money for relief of the needy, they are also providing an important opportunity for Ten Thousand Villages to sell their crafts. The benefits of fair trade marketing are passed on to relief sale shoppers. The budget of Ten Thousand Villages is separate from that of the Relief Auction Sales.

The very first sale was on a Wednesday in 1970, but after that sales were on Saturdays to attract the largest number of buyers. To interest everyone, even those unfamiliar with Mennonite activities, a Friday night presale Open House was held in both Swift Current and Saskatoon to display and publicise the items offered for sale and acquaint people with the work of MCCS. These Friday evening Open Houses quickly developed into an evening of their own with food for sale, entertainment, special events, and sale of crafts.

Saskatoon Relief Sales

From the beginnings in 1970, to 2013, 44 Relief Auction Sales have been held in Saskatoon $2,910,212.76 has been raised for MCCS.

Menno Mile Walk/Run at the Relief Sale

To keep the Annual Relief Auction Sales relevant and interesting the events and activities often changed. Sales sometimes included a Friday evening fashion show, an overnight or sports camp, some sale booths including recordings by Mennonite performers. Volunteers organized "Power of Pennies" drive or the popular sponsored "MennoMile run/walk." Musical performers continue to delight relief "sale'rs".

Relief Sales have made a significant effort to reduce their ecological footprint by: using "Green Energy Retailers," using compostable plates and utensils, reducing and reusing packaging, promoting public transport, bikes and walking and recycling.

Ed Roth, a dairy farmer and auctioneer from Rosthern, served as auctioneer and was principle promoter of the Relief sales from the beginning in 1970 to at least 1990. Other auctioneers, like his son, Ken Roth, and John Doerksen, frequently served with Ed.

Swift Current Relief Sales

In the 17 Relief Auction Sales held from 1973 to 1989, in Swift Current, $313,975.99 was raised for MCCS.

The Swift Current Relief Auctions Sales were always held in the same location, the Stockade Building in Swift Current's Kinetic Exhibition Park. The local Mennonite community had their own planning committees which presented relief auction sales with great enthusiasm. However, the Swift Current area is smaller than in the Saskatoon area. This has limited the number of volunteers. Many of the sale participants were from the area's farming community and the sale had more of that rural flavour.

The 1989 Relief Auction Sale was the last of the annual Swift Current sales. In this last year the amount raised was about 10% lower than the year before. In addition to the drop off in revenue the Swift Current Mennonite community being smaller and more scattered than Saskatoon made it difficult to attract volunteers.

The next year, 1990, the principal fund raising event in the southern part of Saskatchewan was a large garage sale held on 8-9 June in Kindersley which was sponsored by the Fiske, Herschel and Superb Mennonite Churches and the Kindersley Mennonite Brethren in Christ church. It was held in an empty retail store on Main Street and the amount raised for MCCS was $1,372.13.

In 1990 the Swift Current Relief Sale Committee planed a number of fund raising events for June 1991. The Bridgeway Community Church held a dinner on 23 June 1991 and raised $2,394.00 for MCCS and the second Kindersley Relief Garage Sale held on 26-27 April 1991 was again successful raising $3,572.70, a 37% increase over the previous sale.

The tragic and sudden death of Bob Toews, on 4 August 1991, handicapped further sales for he was a popular and enthusiastic Swift Current volunteer auctioneer.

Canadian Foodgrains Bank Sale:

The Canadian Foodgrains Bank began as The Mennonite Food Bank in 1974 sponsored by Mennonite grain farmers who donated part of their crops to feed world hunger. It was established as a separate organization from MCC Canada, but MCCC handled the Bank's overseas distribution. Then in 1983 when other Christian denominations joined it became the Canadian Foodgrains Bank (CFB) as a separate organization. Since then CFB handles its own operations separated from MCCC. It is still actively supported by many Saskatchewan Mennonite farmers. Many who participated in the MCCS Relief Sales found that auction sales were a good way to raise funds, cooperate with neighbours and help feed the hungry.

These auction sales began in 1981 and continue today. They are often just called the "Hague Sale" and are held on one Saturday in late June or July. Usually 30-40 head of cattle are auctioned. Most of the cattle are Holstein for Hague is the centre of the dairy industry in Saskatchewan. The sales are held outdoors and for the first decade and more the weather has been favourable. A March fundraising supper of varenike and sausage has been held to cover expenses. The Hague Sale is also accompanied by significant cash donations which often exceed the funds raised by auction.

NOTE: This very thorough review of the history of Relief Auction Sales, written by Victor Wiebe, comes from a longer document, an 11-page Report, which includes charts and even more detail about each Sale through the years. If you should like to read it, just click and download, or open this PDF file; MCCS-Relief-Sale-Report.pdf (right-click and then click on "Save As" to save to your computer).

food at Relief Sale and Auction

You are cordially invited to this year's Relief Sale in Saskatoon on June 14 @ 9:30 am. MCCS will take this occasion to mark its 50th Anniversary with a special Celebration as part of the Relief Auction and Sale, at Prairieland Park, Saskatoon.

Back to MCCS's 50th Anniversary - index Or; Jan: IVEP | Feb: Thrift Shop Movement | Mar: Canadian Foodgrains Bank| Apr: Ten Thousand Villages | May: Restorative Justice | June: Relief Sale | July: Refugee Assistance | Aug: Aboriginal Neighbours (Historical overview) | Sept: Governance | Oct: Music Gala

[last updated - Dec/16/2021]
Mennonite Historical Society of Saskatchewan

Room 900 - 110 La Ronge Road,
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