Philadelphia Festival raises support and community

by J. Fred Kauffman, West Philadelphia congregation

The MCC Philly Festival featured a rich variety of foods including Chinese egg rolls, Haitian rice, Indonesian snack foods, Mexican tamales, Vietnamese pho, and traditional PA Dutch fare. Photo by Grant Rissler.

“Good food. Good cause. Nice quilts!” observed Rosalie Rolón Dow, describing the October 27th Festival & Auction to support the work of Mennonite Central Committee (MCC). Over 300 people attended Philadelphia’s second “MCC Relief Sale,” bidding on 200 items that raised $19,000 for MCC. With over $5,000 spent on foods and small items plus direct project donations, total receipts exceeded $27,000.

The Pennsylvania Relief Sale and Kingdom Builders Anabaptist Network of Greater Philadelphia (KBN) sponsored the festival.  Seven KBN congregations brought a rich variety of food: Chinese egg rolls, Haitian rice and delicacies, Indonesian snack foods, Mexican tamales, Soul Food, Vietnamese pho/soup, fresh fruit, baked yams, and the traditional PA Dutch fare of soups, cookies, pies, and cakes.

When asked, “Why did you come today?” most people began with, “Because I support MCC’s mission.” This mission involves working in disaster relief, sustainable community development and justice & peace building in Philadelphia and around the world.  (See

Having voiced support for MCC, further comments varied widely. “We wanted to reconnect with old friends and connect with new friends,” said Cynthia and Loren Snavely from the Fox Hill (NY) Bruderhof community. Dana Espinosa from North Philly smiled and said, “You have good food, and it’s a great Saturday outing for my active children.”

A participant from the Lancaster County Amish community said, “My neighbor helped organize the first MCC Relief Sale in 1948 in Gap, Pa. I’ve been attending the Gap sale for years, but wanted to see this one in Philly.”

MCC Philly Festival 2012
West Philadelphia congregation hosted the festival and quilt auction.  Photo by Grant Rissler.

West Philadelphia Mennonite Fellowship hosted the festival in the beautiful 107-year-old domed chapel of Calvary United Methodist Church where it worships. Bidders, volunteers, food, and auction items came from international, urban, and rural contexts.

Sale items included: a meal for ten hosted by an Amish family in rural PA; an original etching of the 1993 Philadelphia Phillies; a deep sea fishing trip in NJ; a house concert with viola, harp and flute; handmade corn brooms; an Eric Kratz signed baseball; tickets to the Philadelphia Orchestra; exquisite wood crafts; silk quilts made in a Vietnamese village; and over 20 other quilts and wall hangings.

Bidders also donated $2,730 directly to MCC church-based community development projects in Colombia and Philadelphia.  In Colombia, MCC works with Anabaptist churches in food security and sustainable livelihoods, and in Philadelphia, MCC supports Kingdom Builders Construction to serve among KBN churches.

Recognition is due to the more than 50 volunteers who assisted at the Festival.  Special thanks to Vernon Martin, the primary auctioneer, and to 89-year-old Sanford Alderfer from Alderfer Auction & Appraisal who stepped out of retirement to give Martin a lunch break!

At the Second Mennonite (Philadelphia) food booth, Brenda Holmes said, “This is a time of fellowship and of service.  It’s special that people from outside of Philly come here to join us: usually we go to their home areas.”  Geraldine Abraham agreed. “This festival is a ‘grand affair,’” she said, “and it is a blessing to give back.”