It’s time to celebrate the arrival of spring and an invitation to the 56th Annual Illinois Mennonite Relief Sale to be held Friday evening and Saturday at the Interstate Center, Bloomington. Admission and parking are free.


The Annual Illinois Mennonite Relief Sale is one of the events that ushers in spring, and also it is a volunteer organization for the sole purpose of promoting help for the needy.


Eighty percent of the net proceeds are channeled through Mennonite Central Committee in Akron, Penn.


MCC is a relief and service agency serving in 60 countries of the world with more than 1000 volunteers working “in the name of Christ.”


Twenty percent of the net is given to local charities for providing food for the needy. Some of these groups are the Salvation Army in Peoria, Bloomington, and Pekin; Peoria Rescue Mission; Southside Mission; Bloomington’s Home Sweet Home Mission; Peoria and Bloomington’s Midwest Food Bank; and many food pantries.


All of these agencies need funds, especially now. For example, the Salvation Army provides food for the needy, giving a free meal every 60 seconds of everyday.


Presently, hundreds of volunteers are getting ready for all 2014 Relief Sale activities that start with the preparation for more than 2,000 people to enjoy barbecue chicken and catfish filet dinners beginning at 4:30 p.m. on Friday night.



Tickets are $9 for two pieces of chicken or two fish or $7 for one piece and all the rest of the meal.


There also will be all kinds of fruit pies and ice cream.


Serenading the Friday night diners will be the King Family of nine musicians hailing from Monticello. This group has won two State of Illinois Championships in music, playing gospel, bluegrass and country songs.


On both Friday night and Saturday, sale-goers may enjoy butterfly pork chops, barbecues, rib-eye steaks and pork burgers.


Also this year, many sale workers will be seasoning, grinding and stuffing more than 2,000 pounds of whole-hog sausage for the all-you-can-eat pancake/sausage breakfast starting at 6 a.m. and serving until noon on Saturday.


Tickets for adults are $8 and $4 for children.


A favorite booth will again be the Butcher Shoppe, which will feature the fresh whole-hog sausage, both link and bulk, hams, ribs and sliced turkey breasts.


All booths will be ready for business at 4:30 p.m. on Friday and 7 a.m. on Saturday.


They will feature homemade ice cream, popcorn and cider, natural foods, arts and crafts, needlework, kiddie korner, baby items, flowers, books, Mennonice, curly fries, hundreds of dozens of doughnuts and much more.



The auction on Friday starts at 6:30 p.m. with the selling of some quilts and comforters beginning at 7:30 p.m.


On Saturday, the Grand Auction begins at 8:30 a.m. with volunteer auctioneers crying the quilt auction starting at 9:30 a.m.


In addition to nearly 100 quilts, comforters, and afghans, some special highlights of the Grand Auction will be: an antique pump organ that actually was purchased a number of years ago at the Relief Sale in the Peoria Civic Center and is now being brought back for the 2014 auction; five  25” by 31” framed nature pictures from Wild Wings that were painted by renown artists — Rosemary Millette, Jim Kasper, Anthony Padgett, and Chris Cummings; an oak sleigh entertainment center; a loft bourbon cherry queen bedroom set; a swivel oak rocker-glider chair; an oak roll top student desk; and outdoor gliders.


At the Pennsylvania Dutch Market, there are all kinds of pies, including fresh strawberry, apple, gooseberry, cherry, peach, mincemeat, apricot, pecan, raisin, blueberry, rhubarb, blackberry and the traditional shoo-fly pies.


Other delicacies include cakes, cookies, candies and lots of loaves of white, rye, wheat, French and cinnamon breads.


Many are attracted to the Flower Box, featuring pussy willows, plants of all kinds, homemade greeting cards and much more.


Creating interest in the unusual each year are the overseas craft items presented by “Ten Thousand Villages.”


This booth area displays international crafts including rugs, onyx art objects, purses, brassware, linens, baskets of all kinds, toys, wood art pieces, leather items, jewelry and many other specialties.


Ten Thousand Villages is a special program of Mennonite Central Committee in Akron, Penn., that purchases crafts from developing world artisans and then makes them available for sale in United States and Canada.


Also, this program provides jobs and income for those in need as well as giving customers beautiful, unique items from around the world.


Another program of MCC is “Penny Power,” an intergenerational activity of collecting coins year-round.


These donations, from all central Illinois churches, are brought to the Annual Relief Sale and placed in Penny Power containers, and then the contributions are sent to MCC to help people to have food and water today and to grow food and build wells for tomorrow.


The first Relief Sale was held March 21, 1959, at the Congerville Angus Barn with a net income of $5,000.


Because this location became too crowded after seven years, the Sale Board relocated at Exposition Gardens for 17 years, 1966-1982.


Again because of needing more space, the new home of the Relief Sale was the Peoria Civic Center from 1983–1997.


Then starting in 1998, the location changed to the Interstate Center in Bloomington due to the scheduling of a basketball tournament at the Civic Center.


The Relief Sale Board wishes to give God the glory for His blessings during these past 55 relief sales, from which they said they have obtained a total of over $7 million to help the needy.


For more information, contact Illinois Mennonite Relief Sale coordinators Don and Ruthie Roth at 266-7704 and Jess and Linda Slager at 449-5782.