The Dates for next year's sale are April 14 & 15, 2023.

Money raised in our 2022 sale was: $145,000

Our story

Celebration for World Relief (CFWR) is a group of Mennonite. Mennonite Brethren and Anabaptist churches on the West Coast working together to raise money and support for the relief, development and peace work of Mennonite Central Committee (MCC).

There is plenty of food, great desserts, and more. You can bid on a quilt in a live auction or, if you're shy, bid in the silent auction. There's an early morning 5k run/walk, or you can join the kids in a scavenger hunt. There's a Country Store, an Art Show, and all the Used Books you can read.  What's more: a Tagua tent, music on the Green and additional activities. Then, there's always time for a reunion: family, MCC Alumni, or just friends. Happens once a year so don't miss it.

West Coast Mennonite Relief Sale Inc., is a 501(c)(3) tax-deductible charitable organization.


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The First Relief Sale

The spring of 1922 was a dark time for Mennonites in Ukraine. Events of the last several years had traced them beyond anything they could have imagined a short while earlier. Civil war and anarchy had followed the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917. Many lost their lives at the hands of roving bandits or epidemics that followed in their wake.

In 1920 nature had joined the conspiracy against Ukraine. Almost no rain fell in the region during that year; by spring of 1921 conditions were so dry that the grain was blowing out of the ground by the roots. Almost no rain fell throughout 1921 and by November famine was widespread. The 1922 grain harvest in Ukraine was less than 12% the size of the 1914 harvest; the number of horses and cattle in the region had dropped by 80% and 50% respectively since 1914. Without wheat, hungry people ground-up leaves, bark, corn stalks, and even thistles to make flour. A visitor to the Mennonite colonies at the time reported that he did not hear the sound of barking dogs-they had all been eaten.

Word about this desperate situation eventually reached Mennonites in North America, including those on the West Coast, who resolved to help their starving sisters and brothers in the Ukraine. West Coast Mennonites had already been active in Russian relief for some time before the 1922 crisis. In 1919 Mennonites here had gathered clothing for the relief of suffering Mennonites in Siberia. California Mennonite M.B. Fast and W.P. Neufeld went to Russia to distribute the clothing. In 1920 Mennonites in the Reedley and Dinuba area organized the Pacific Brand of the Relief Committee for the Suffering Mennonites I Russia. This West Coast organization was one of the numerous Mennonite relief agencies that met together in Elkhart, Indiana on July 27, 1920, to found the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC).

In the spring of 1922, North American Mennonites heard new calls for help from the Ukraine. MCC workers there wired urgent messages back to the United States requesting immediate aid for the famine sufferers. In response to these pleas for Ukrainian assistance, California Mennonites decided to hold a relief sale - an auction of used items, the proceeds from which would be sent to the MCC relief effort.

Auctions of this kind were not a new idea for most Mennonites. Midwestern Mennonite congregations such as the Ebenfeld Mennonite Brethren Church in Marion County, Kansas had conducted them since the 1880s. While individual congregations usually conducted she's sales for the benefit of their women's missionary societies, organizers of this auction intended something on a larger scale. This auction would not only include more than one congregation but would encompass several Mennonite conferences. In the spirit of MCC, it was to be an inter-Mennonite event.

On June 30, 1922, local Mennonites and others gathered at the farm of John K. Warkentin south of Reedley, bringing with them various items to be sold at the auction. Members from all three Mennonite groups in the area - Mennonite Brethren, General Conference Mennonite, and Krimmer Mennonite Brethren - attended the auction, as well as members from the local Church of the Brethren and Methodist congregations. Sale items were spread out under the shade trees on the property awaiting the beginning of the sale.

At 9:30 in the morning, the auction began. "Brother Fast" [most likely M.M. Fast of Dinuba] began the day with a scripture reading. Reverend Brower from the Church of the Brethren offered the opening prayer and Rev. Hicks from the Methodist Church gave "a short but fitting message." Following these opening words, the sale began. Jakob Siebert and George Knak were the auctioneers; Phillipp E. Thiessen was the clerk. All three men were members of the Reedley Mennonite Brethren Church. Items sold range from coffee tables to tractors. by sundown, the auction had raised 1,750, most of which was cabled to Russia the following day for use by MCC workers there.

The Reedley auction of 1922, despite its impressive results, was a one-time event; no subsequent sales for MCC took place in the area during the following years. Probably none of the participants that day on John Warkentin's farm realized that this seemingly isolated event would become known as the first MCC Relief Sale.

On the surface, relief sales of the 2020s look very different from that first MCC sale in 1922. The 1922 event commenced with little fanfare or even expectation and passed with almost no attention in the Mennonite press. With the passing of Ukrainian drought and famine, no one saw the need to make the sale an annual event forty-six years later, few of the participants remembered that it had been done before. Yet the West Coast sale today is very much a continuation of the spirit of 1922. Then as now Mennonites saw a need and found a practical means of meeting it. Today the need is more diverse and less focused on those of "our own kind," but it arises out of the same desire to be of service and aid to our neighbors around the world.

Portions of this article were taken from the "Mennonite Brethren Historical Society of the West Coast BULLETIN, April 1990. Written by Kevin Enns-Rempel