The hockey season had been over for months, but the brand new Steinbach Centennial Arena was filled to the rafters with generous bidders, who followed the advice of the auctioneer to raise more than $11,000 for the Mennonite Central Committee at its annual auction.
"You’ve opened your hearts by being here, now open up your purse strings," the auctioneer urged the huge crowd attending the MCC auction Saturday.
The crowd did so, and enough money was raised at the sale to feed 3,900 youngsters in Viet Nam for a school year; or 3,200 children in Calcutta for a full year in the MCC feeding program there. Should the auction proceeds be designated for medical supplies, MCC, as a member of the inter-church medical assistance program, can send $80 worth of medicine for every dollar donated for this purpose.
The MCC auction in Steinbach raised $11,700, which all will go to the global relief work of the Mennonite Central Committee, but the specific areas have not yet been designated.
Beginning at just after 10 a.m., the sale lasted for more than eight hours and hundreds of donated items were sold.
Expenses for the sale were kept at a minimum, with volunteers providing everything from auctioneers’ services to collecting money from successful bidders, to organizing traffic for the huge event. All the items sold were donated free of charge.
It was an event with numerous interesting sidelights and the team of four auctioneers kept things moving, alternating at the loud speaker. John and Corny, known as "The Flying Kehlers", or L.A. Barkman and Tom Wiebe would keep the crowd entertained with a curious remark about the items offered or merely with their rapid-fire auctioneering calls.
For some of the buyers, like Olga Friesen, the auction provided the opportunity to bid on an item that would be of great sentimental value.
She bought an antique clock that her great-grandfather had made in Chortitza, Russia in 1845. Her father had always been looking for an original Lepp Clock, she said, but people were reluctant to part with them.
"John Henry Friesen was repairing the clock and he found the imprinted words 1845 Chortitza Peter Lepp when he was dissembling the gears. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity of buying it."
Mrs Friesen had to bid $200 to buy the clock, but said it was worth it for her family to now have possession of this family heirloom.
Another prized entry to the auction was a large, framed picture of red poppies, created in petit-point by a Miss A. Neufeld of Winnipeg, which Walter Kroeker of Altona purchased for $190.
This was an auction where some quilts sold for higher prices than some of the used cars and where occasionally some buyer found he didn’t really know how to use the item he had just purchased, having bid on it only to support the cause.
The sale of donated quilts added $2,800 to the auction total, with the highest priced quilt bought by Mrs C.C. Defehr of Winnipeg. She paid $200 for a quilt made by Mrs A.T. Loewen of Steinbach, similar in pattern to a quilt Mrs K.R. Barkman had brought home from an MCC auction in Pennsylvania last year.
During the sale, eight used cars, countless household items, new furniture and farm implements came into the auctioneer’s ring. As items were sold, the successful bidders made their way to the cashier in the foyer of the arena to pay for them. At one point, two auction rings were operating simultaneously, one selling small household items and another taking bids on a variety of larger items outside.
K.R. Barkman, who headed the committee organizing the sale, said they were very satisfied with the auction, and said they probably would make this an annual event for Manitoba Mennonite churches. Although the sale was supported by the churches, it was organized by lay community leaders rather than the ministry.
Two years ago, a similar sale was held at Winkler and was also considered a successful event.
Ontario churches in the Hamilton and Waterloo-Kitchener areas, and Mennonite churches in Pennsylvania, have had successful MCC auctions for years.
The success of the auction, in part, could be attributed to the fact it was for such a worthy cause. Part of the ease auctioneers had to garner bids probably stemmed from the thought that if a bid turned out to be too high, the buyer knew his money would be used for the world’s needy people.