This weekend, an annual tradition will benefit people in need from around the world.
The 31st South Dakota Mennonite Central Committee Sale will be held Saturday on the campus of Freeman Academy in Freeman.
And there will be plenty for visitors to see and take part in as they participate in a daylong project to support worldwide relief projects. Activities held during the day will include a bike race, crafts, a bake sale and produce booths, tours of the local arboretum, storytelling with local historian Norman Hofer, a live and silent auction and a music extravaganza in the evening.
It’s an event that began in 1987 in Sioux Falls, where the first 25 such events were held. After a hiatus, the sale moved to Freeman in 2014, where it has raised $250,000 for MCC since that time. The first 30 relief sales have sent a total of about $2.5 million to the organization for its work around the world.
“Things are falling into place,” said Edie Tschetter, a member of the organizing board for the event. “There are always last minute details that come up but we’ll deal with them.”
Tschetter said the event was moved to Freeman from Sioux Falls when it made more sense economically to host the sale there.
“The major reason was it was becoming cost prohibitive to be in Sioux Falls and it was time to make a change,” Tschetter said.
The first sale held in Freeman was held at the local community center, but the space was too small to accommodate the crowd. That’s when it was decided to take advantage of the facilities at Freeman Academy, a local private school with ties to the Mennonite Church, where ample room and a commercial kitchen were available.
“It’s been wonderful that Pioneer Hall (at Freeman Academy) has everything we need. We feel like we have arrived at our destination and we’re not moving anymore,” Tschetter said. “And people said before we moved, if it were in Freeman it would be so much easier. We’re a small community with a lot of opportunities for volunteering.”
People attending the event will have plenty to explore when they attend. A bike ride/race will take place from Freeman to the Salem-Zion Mennonite Church east of town at about 8 a.m. before the craft, bake sale and produce booths open.
Food, including many items that are popular at the annual Schmeckfest tasting festival held in Freeman every year in the spring, will be on hand for the hungry.
“There are no prices listed anywhere, it’s all by donation,” Tschetter said. Traditional dishes such as stewed beef, sauerkraut and cheese pockets will be available alongside standard fare like sloppy joes, taco salads and pies and homemade ice cream.
One centerpiece of the sale will be a presentation by Norman Hofer, a local speaker and historian who often give speeches about Freeman-area heritage, who will offer insight into the mission of MCC, it’s connection to the Freeman community and the work it does around the world. Tschetter said she expects his presentation to be well-attended.
“The first time we scheduled him the room was so full there were people in the hallway,” Tschetter said. “So we scheduled two more and the room was still full. He’s done an amazing job.”
A live auction will feature handcrafted items like woodworking and quilts, and a silent auction will offer smaller baskets of items for those with less to spend on items. For those not interested in accumulating more things for their home, there are still opportunities to give through the silent auction, which includes smaller, practical items.
“A lot of people are at the stage in their life where they don’t want more things in their house, and that’s OK. They can still contribute,” Tschetter said. “The silent auction is there for people who are not as able to do big bidding and are looking to get something practical,” Tschetter said.
The day will conclude with a musical extravaganza at the Larry Waltner farm starting at 5 p.m., when a number of musical acts will entertain the public into the evening. It’s a new addition to the sale this year, Tschetter said, and one that the public will hopefully find entertaining.
“That’s something new this year. There will be a number of groups performing,” Tschetter said.
The focus of the sale is to contribute to the Mennonite Central Committee and the work it does around the world. The organization is known, among other things, for its disaster relief efforts, sustainable community development and justice and peace-building responses. A demonstration of making school kits for needy children will take place, giving visitors a look at some of the practical uses the funds raised can go toward.
The South Dakota MCC Sale is one of about 30 similar sales in the United States and another 10 in Canada, all with their own unique characteristics and events, Tschetter said. While the sale in Freeman is relatively small compared to some, the work it helps fund remains important, she said.
“The proceeds go to MCC and the work they do in 50 or 60 countries around the world,” Tschetter said.
She said she expects the MCC Sale to return to Freeman for the foreseeable future, and that she hopes people visiting the event will both enjoy it and be moved to help with the mission of helping people from all walks of life.
“I hope they’ll see a generous people and see that people aren’t just here to get a bargain,” Tschetter said. “There are needs to be met around the world. Our church is active around the world, and we hope it will be a fun experience as they see community working together.”