Tag Archives: Mennonite Central Committee

Make shopping thrifty in Ohio’s Amish Country

Thrift store shopper by Bruce Stambaugh

Marlene Burrell of Mineral City, OH shops regularly at the Harvest Thrift Store in Sugarcreek, OH.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Frugal shoppers will find a bonanza in Ohio’s Amish Country. The area is abundant with several well-stocked thrift stores, which is a reflection of Amish and Mennonite values.

The Amish and Mennonite cultures have a reputation for being thrifty. Recycling clothing, house wares and other household items and much more not only fits that image but their theology of service as well. Accordingly, profits from all the area’s thrift stores go to various charities.

Great bargains covering a wide range of items can be found in each thrift store. All resell clean, functional and stylish merchandise for the entire family.

On the eastern edge of Amish Country is the Harvest Thrift Store in Sugarcreek, Ohio. Located at 1019 West Main Street, the Harvest Thrift Store has been in operation for four years. A second store at 102 East Main Street in Wilmot opened last May.

All proceeds go to youth ministries and to local non-profit organizations like Every Women’s House in Wooster. According to store manager Holly Lehigh, 30 to 40 percent of her customers are from out of the area.

“We have some people from out of state who come back three or four times every year,” she said. “They tell me that what they spend on gas they more than make up in the savings of what they buy.”

In Wayne County’s Kidron, MCC Connections offers its items in a pleasant and well-organized atmosphere. Store manager, Bill Ressler, said that a number of tour buses stop at the store on occasion, the most recent from North Carolina. He attributes those visits to the promotion of the store by the Wayne County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

According to Ressler, all proceeds from sales at MCC Connections go to Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), Akron, Pennsylvania. MCC assists peoples around the globe in education, water projects and agricultural initiates, encouraging health, hygiene and sustainability. MCC Connections is located at 4080 Kidron Road, Kidron.

Back in Holmes County in the hub of Amish Country is Berlin, where Share and Care Thrift Store operates on U.S. 62. Share and Care sends 80 percent of its profits to Haiti missions and uses the balance for local needs, such as fire victims and personal disasters.

Day manager Noah Troyer estimated that at least 50 percent of the store’s business is from tourists. He said that amount increases during peak tourist time.

“We have had people here from Arizona and California,” Troyer said.

Millersburg, the county seat, hosts two thriving thrift shops, the internationally known Goodwill Industries, and Save and Serve Thrift Shop. They just happen to be catty corner from one another on South Washington Street at Rodhe Drive.

Like it’s international corporation goals, Goodwill’s objective is to finance the employment of those who need jobs. Store manager, Josh McWilliams, said most of his customers are local residents, though the number of tourists who frequent the store increases seasonally.

“They are mostly looking for down home, Amish-made items,” McWilliams said.

According to Helen Glick, co-manager at Save and Serve, about 25 percent of their customers are from outside the immediate area.

“Our on-going silent auctions seem to attract collectors and others interested in unusual pieces and antiques,” Glick said. A look at the silent auction bid book indicated customers from all across Ohio as well as several from other states.

Eric Raber, co-manager at Save and Serve, credits the community’s continued support for the long-term success of his store. Save and Serve was founded in 1975.

“Even in a down economy, the local people continue to provide us with amazing amounts and quality items to offer at reasonable prices,” Raber said. Like MCC Connections, all of the profits at Save and Serve are sent to MCC. In its 35 years of operation, Save and Serve has sent $3.3 million to MCC to help fund its global projects.

Whether from near or far, bargains galore are sure to be found in the thrift stores in Ohio’s Amish Country. And emblematic of the holiday spirit, all of the profits from sales go to those in need.

Thrifty shoppers by Bruce Stambaugh

Kay Schrock, Mary Hoefer, and Jo Troyer, all of Goshen, IN, and Becky Christophel of Harrisonburg, VA, shopped several Amish Country thrift stores, including Share and Care in Berlin. The three sisters and their mother, Troyer, enjoy their frequent rendezvous' in Ohio's Amish country.

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Abby Hart has a heart for the environment

Abby Hart by Bruce Stambaug

Abby Hart displayed some of her favorite mementos from Nicaragua.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Abby Hart, of Millersburg, loved science.

“But I didn’t want to be a doctor (like her father, Andy),” she said.

Instead, Hart put her scientific efforts into something she really cared about, the environment. She graduated from Wheaton College in 2009 with a degree in environmental studies.

After spending a year in Nicaragua through Mennonite Central Committee’s Serving and Learning Together (SALT) program, Hart has just begun a new job at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. She is a program assistant for the Eco-Agriculture Working Group under the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell.

She will be working to interconnect conservation and agricultural practices at Cornell. After her experience in Nicaragua, Hart said she considers this job an answer to prayer.

“I thought I would be preparing to go to grad school,” she said. “But now I’ll get to work and attend grad school as well.” Cornell has a graduate school program for employees, which Hart said she plans to take full advantage off.

A friend in California informed her about the job, knowing Hart’s dual interests in conservation and agriculture. Hart thinks her new position will be a good fit.

“They do research on agricultural procedures and conservation practices,” Hart said. “They focus on rural livelihood.”

After her SALT experiences in Nicaragua, Hart should be well suited for the job.

Hart lived for a year in a rural village in the central highlands of the Central American country. She had previously spent three months in neighboring Honduras, also through MCC, in an internship where Hart honed her Spanish skills.

In Nicaragua, Hart was involved in a food security project where she assisted locals in rearing small animals. She helped them learn how to raise rabbits and goats, two animals that Nicaraguans are normally not familiar with. She said they also raised chickens and sheep.

“We also worked in a water security program,” Hart said. “Ensuring clean drinking water there is crucial to prevent disease.”

Hart served as a liaison between department officials and the project beneficiaries, meaning the people who were involved in the programs. In fact, Hart lived with one of the beneficiaries in the small town of San Pablo.

“My host was one of the community leaders,” Hart said. “Thanks to cell phones, I’m still able to stay in touch with her.”

Hart, 23, returned from that assignment in July not knowing exactly what the future held for her. She was able to obtain a short-term job in agricultural research at the Ohio Agricultural and Research Development Center (OARDC) in Wooster. She had worked there previously in other summer jobs.

During those summer stints at the OARDC, Hart worked with a number of international students. It was then that she was able to improve on one of her hobbies, cooking. She also enjoys walking and biking.

“I still wanted to do agricultural and environmental related work or studies,” she said, citing the importance of conservation and agriculture working together.

Hart said she thinks her experiences at the OARC and in Nicaragua helped her in obtaining this new post.

“I am really excited to get this position,” she said. “It will involve working with both developing and underdeveloped countries. She said Cornell focuses its research on strategies in agriculture and the environment.

“They work in Central America and I will help in building social networks,” she said. “They apply the active learning approach to research and it is interdisciplinary.”

“It will be my job to obtain the most optimal solution for both agricultural and environmental processes,” Hart said.

Given her life experiences, her interests and her enthusiasm, the future looks bright for both Hart and those with whom she will be working.

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Nepali volunteer is all about business

Amrit Rajbanshi by Bruce Stambaugh

Electronics is one of the stations where Amrit Rajbanshi works at Save and Serve Thirft Shop, Millersburg, Ohio.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Someone had to be first.

Amrit Rajbanshi is the first person from Nepal to serve in the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) program dubbed IVEP, short for International Volunteer Exchange Program. Of all the places in the United States he could have gone, Millersburg gets to be the recipient of his services.

Rajbanshi is serving as a volunteer at the Save and Serve Thrift Store on South Washington Street in Millersburg through next July. The 18-year-old is a first year college student majoring in business.

He arrived in the U.S from Nepal on August 11, and spent his first week participating in an orientation in Akron, Pennsylvania. He is one of 48 IVEP’ers from around the world who are serving in the U.S. through MCC this year.

“I feel blessed to have been chosen to be the first from Nepal to serve in the IVEP program,” Rajbanshi said. He said he chose to volunteer in a thrift shop to learn hands on business skills.

“I have already had several practical experiences,” he said, “compared to simply studying the theory of business in school.”

At Save and Serve, Rajbanshi has been assigned to work at several different stations, including repairing electronics, arranging clothing, serving as cashier, and handling the store’s online used book sales.

Rajbanshi starts each day at 8 a.m. sweeping in the store. He admitted that at first he thought that task was a bit menial for him. But he soon understood that it was an essential part of the IVEP process.

“I realized that if I don’t do the work, then who will do it?” Rajbanshi said, revealing wisdom beyond his years. “This is not only for me. It’s for MCC and all those who come after me.”

Rajbanshi is staying with Stan and Marilyn Kamp of Millersburg. His expenses are covered through MCC and Save and Serve and he receives an $80 monthly stipend for personal needs.

“I feel very welcome here,” he said. “I’m adjusting to the culture.”

Rajbanshi said his hometown in Nepal has a population of 100,000. But he is also used to the country since his father, Meghnath, is a pastor at a rural Brethren in Christ church in Nepal.

Family is very important to Rajbanshi, and he did acknowledge being a little big homesick. Besides spending time with his family, he said he enjoys soccer, chess and working on the computer.

Rajbanshi has two sisters, Urmila, who is a high school teacher and is studying for her master’s degree, and Punam, a high school student. His mother, Chandrabati, is a homemaker.

“I respect my father very much,” Rajbanshi said, “because unlike most others in our culture he treats woman equal to men.”

“IVEP is a very good program and opportunity,” Rajbanshi said. “It is nice to be introduced to the new culture.”

Rajbanshi said he is still learning English, although he speaks English very well. According to Helen Glick, co-manager at Save and Serve, knowing English is a requirement in order to be considered for IVEP.

Rajbanshi said he views being an IVEP’er as a form of peace building.

“I get to know and learn new people and a new culture,” he explained, “and when I go home I can tell my people what it’s really like here.”

Rajbanshi expressed a concern that neither his people nor those of other Asian nations really know what America is like and vice versa. Fortunately, he won’t have to do all the sharing on his own.

“MCC has lots of programs in Nepal in conjunction with the Brethren in Christ Church,” Rajbanshi said. In Nepal, MCC mainly supports efforts to equip grassroots community workers to build peace in their own context. They support education in settings from Nepal’s capital, Katmandu, to a remote mountain stone quarry where children work along side their parents.

Rajbanshi said Nepal is a country in political transition, moving from a Hindu state to a secular republic. He said the government has another year to complete that change.

“By the end of my year here,” Rajbanshi said, “I will use my experience in my schooling.” But true to his nature, Rajbanshi’s goal doesn’t stop there.
“I will try to inspire others to participate in the IVEP program,” he said. IVEP is aimed at young adults, 18-30.

This story appeared in the Holmes Bargain Hunter.

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Benefit auctions abound in Ohio’s Amish Country

Handcrafted table by Bruce Stambaugh

A sample of the kind of furniture offered at benefit auctions in Ohio's Amish country.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Benefit auctions abound in Ohio’s Amish country. Every year thousands of people from near and far attend these worthwhile functions.

Dave Kaufman of Kaufman Realty, Sugarcreek, serves as auctioneer at many of the benefit auctions. He’s not surprised at the popularity of the events at all. He said the formula for their success is pretty simple.

“It’s a very giving, caring community,” Kaufman said. “If it’s a good cause, the auction will get good support.”

Kaufman estimated that there are at least 35 such benefit auctions in Amish country. Some are small, local auctions, like the ones for private Amish schools. Others draw big crowds and usually raise major money for their causes.

“If there is a need,” Kaufman said, “people come to the rescue.”

One of the largest benefit auctions is the Rainbow of Hope Auction in Mt. Hope. Henry Hershberger is its president and founder. This year’s sale is July 23 and 24 at the Mt. Hope Auction barn.

The sale has been a local mainstay since 1987 when Hershberger’s young daughter was hospitalized for two months. Hershberger is Amish and along with other members contributes to the church’s medical fund. But in this case, the fund was depleted before the bills were paid.

Hershberger turned to the community for help, which responded by raising the $20,000 balance of his medical bills. Touched by the generosity, Hershberger started the auction as a way to help others who might be in a similar situation.

“Our best auction was in 2008 when we totaled $403,735,” Hershberger said. He rattled off that figure from memory.

“We try to focus on the community to make it work,” Hershberger said. “It’s something the entire community can participate in.”

Like most other benefit auctions, Rainbow of Hope Auction depends on volunteer labor and donations of items for a successful sale. With furniture the biggest moneymaker, Hershberger said that the work of the furniture committee is key.

“We have about 25 people who canvas the community, hitting every furniture manufacturer and retail store for donations,” he said. “All the items are new.”

John Deere quilt by Bruce Stambaugh

Quilts like this one are often found at the benefit auctions held each summer in Ohio's Amish country.

Hershberger said they also auction quilts, gift certificates and other home and garden items. Hershberger stressed that the Rainbow of Hope fund is not just for Amish.

“Any resident in Coshocton, Holmes, Tuscarawas and Wayne counties can apply to the committee for financial help,” he said. “We may not be able to pay all of their bills, but we can help in some way.”

Hershberger said the Rainbow of Hope fund has never run out of money either. He said the committee uses two percent for overhead.

“The other 98 percent is used for those who need it,” Hershberger said. He has served as chair of the auction for 20 years.

Another popular benefit auction is the Ohio Mennonite Relief Sale, which will be held August 6 and 7 this year in Kidron. Last year, the sale raised $338,653 for Mennonite Central Committee (MCC).

MCC is the relief, service and development agency of North American Mennonite and Brethren in Christ churches. Several such sales are held throughout North America annually. The Ohio Mennonite Relief Sale is typical of those auctions.

Baby quilt by Bruce Stambaugh

A baby quilt typical of the kind auctioned off. My wife, Neva, made this one for our granddaughter.

Once again, the Ohio Mennonite Relief Sale will feature a varied schedule of events. Everything from food to children’s activities to the auction items themselves will be included. Even a USA Track and Field certified Run for Relief will be held to help raise money for MCC projects worldwide.

Another big benefit auction in the area is the Ohio Haiti Sale, also held at the Mt. Hope Auction in Mt. Hope. This year’s sale, which will have special meaning given the catastrophic January earthquake in Haiti, will be held on Labor Day weekend, September 3 and 4.

A small quilt by Bruce Stambaugh

This is another example of the kinds of quilts available at charity benefit auctions.

This sale is also one of several held around the country for the benefit of those in need in Haiti. The Ohio Haiti sale was also begun in 1987. It, too, takes a coordinated effort of many volunteers and donated items to raise funds.

Food, fun and fellowship enhance the actual auctioning of items at the Haiti sale, just like all the other benefit auctions that predominate the summer months annually in Ohio’s Amish country.

This article first appeared in the June 2010 edition of Ohio’s Amish Country.

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Tipping the Teacup: A frugal fashion show

Naomi Raber

Naomi Raber checked her hat before making her entrance into the fashion show.

By Bruce Stambaugh

A fashion show sponsored by a thrift store sounds like the punch line to a bad joke. But that’s exactly what happened recently in Millersburg to the delight of all who attended.

Save and Serve Thrift Shop of Millersburg sponsored a memorable event titled “Tipping the Teacup” Friday evening, May 21 at Millersburg Mennonite Church. Part meal, part fashion show, part fundraiser, the enjoyable gathering was officially dubbed “a very special tea party and style review.” No matter how it was described, the evening became quite the social party.

Helen Glick, assistant manager at Save and Serve, organized and hosted the party, which was attended by nearly 150 people. That number included 23 individuals, children to grandmothers, who served as models for the fashion show that followed the heavy Hors d’ Oeuvres meal.

The church was filled with decorated tables set with china plates, teacups and saucers, all from Save and Serve. Bouquets of fresh cut flowers adorned each table.

After raiding a buffet worthy a cruise ship and having tea or coffee served to them, attendees were entertained while they ate. Rhoda Mast played the piano and sang. Others sang as well, including Kudzayi Nyakura, Rachel Miller, and Annie and Carrie Yoder.

After the meal, the patrons, who paid $20 each to attend, settled in for the stylish entertainment. They weren’t disappointed.

Carol Mullet of Sugarcreek served as commentator of the style review. Each volunteer model dawned pre-selected outfits obtained from Save and Serve’s inventory and wound their way through the audience as Mullet described their choice of clothing.

Zack, Kevin and Jonathan show off their outfits.

Zack Miller, Kevin Roth and Jonathan Reuel revisited years gone by with their outfits.

The wardrobes modeled ranged from prom dresses to hip garb to head-to-toe cowboy. Each model chose three separate outfits to wear.

60s dress

Back to the 60s.

Some wore exquisite clothing, while others exhibited crowd-pleasing silliness with combinations from by-gone eras.

The style show concluded with entrance of a black tuxedo complete with top hat worn by Dr. Roy Miller. He escorted Heather McDonough dressed in a lacy, black formal gown and contrasting red hat and veil. All the models had first option to buy the clothing they wore. After that, those in attendance could purchase particular items they had spied.

Glick said the evening earned nearly $2,400 for Mennonite Central Committee (MCC). Proceeds from Save and Serve also are sent to MCC, which aides refugees in need of food, clothing and shelter around the globe. Emergency kits for Haiti following the devastating earthquake there earlier this year are an example of MCC’s services.

The Tipping the Teacup planning committee included Glick, Mullet, Janice Miller and Ruby Miller. This was the second year for the benefit fashion event.

formal and tux

Formal attire completed the benefit fashion show.

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