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BLOOMINGTON — Sixty years of elaborate quilts, home-cooked treats and contributions to provide relief around the world have kept the Illinois Mennonite Relief Sale going strong.

Organized by the Mennonite Central Committee, the event attracted more than 8,000 people to the Interstate Center in Bloomington Friday and Saturday.

“I think it shows our community has a joy for helping others and they want to be a part of it,” said Ruthie Roth, executive secretary of the sale. “I thank God for the opportunity to serve him and other people. He has been so good to us.”

At the live auction on Saturday, complex stitched quilts were stretched high above the crowd. Pointing, shouting and auctioneer babble filled the hall while bidders snacked on popcorn and fresh doughnuts.

Amish-made furniture and decor were also sold, and additional items were up for grabs at a silent auction for the laid-back bidders.

Roth, who has been involved in the event since it began, said 80 percent of the weekend’s proceeds go to the Mennonite Central Committee which funds missionary work and disaster relief efforts in 56 countries including America.

The remaining 20 percent of proceeds fund local charities including The Salvation Army of Peoria, Bloomington and Pekin; Bloomington's Home Sweet Home Ministries; the Midwest Food Bank in Bloomington and other food pantries.

While sharing a pancake and sausage breakfast with her three daughters, Becky Berry of Normal said she uses the sale as an experience to learn about “giving back” for her kids.

“There needs to be a big 'thank you' to the people who put the time and energy into this event. They’re dedicated to the cause and there’s a need for the ministry they provide,” said Berry.

When asked what attracts him to the sale year after year, Tom Saal gestured to his plate of finished pancakes and sausage.

“We also like to come out on Friday night to pick up a strawberry pie,” said Saal, of Peoria, who attended with Liz Nichols of Bloomington.

Homemade pie, jam, bread, popcorn, cheese and noodles were quickly snatched up at the Pennsylvania Dutch Market.

Mindy Stalter of Eureka selected a pie with help from her daughter Jovie, 4 months, and son Joah, 7.

“It’s a good cause and it’s so fun to see everyone each year. People are so generous and it’s great to see the support,” said Stalter.

Phylis Versteegh of Bloomington and her brother Bob Patton of Richmond, Ind., watched the children’s auction after a morning of browsing the sale.

“It’s really rewarding to see the community support the relief sale,” said Versteegh. "Last year relief sales (through Mennonite Central Committee) raised $4.6 million for worldwide support." 

“We support the concept of service to the community. That’s what I respect and appreciate about the event,” said Patton.

Follow Julia Evelsizer on Twitter: @pg_evelsizer

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Public Safety Reporter

Public safety reporter for The Pantagraph.

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