MCC kicking off 100th year with ‘Great Winter Warm-up’

MCC kicking off 100th year with ‘Great Winter Warm-up’
Kate Mast

Mitchell Stutzman, left, Hesston, Kansas, and Marcus Unruh, Wayland, Iowa, work together to finish tying knots at a September 2019 comforter-making event at the MCC Central States Material Resources Center in North Newton, Kansas.


Mennonite Central Committee will kick off its 100-year anniversary celebration in 2020 by bringing together volunteers in the U.S., Canada and Europe to make 6,500 comforters.

The Great Winter Warm-up will jump-start MCC’s supply of comforters that are sent to people in crisis all around the world each year. In 2018 MCC sent more than 53,000 comforters as a practical message of love and compassion in the name of Christ.

MCC was founded in 1920 when groups of Mennonites and Mennonite Brethren formed a committee to provide food and other assistance to people affected by war and famine in Southern Russia, which is present-day Ukraine.

Today MCC provides humanitarian relief, encourages sustainable development and strengthens peace-building initiatives in more than 50 countries. Comforters and blankets have been part of MCC’s relief resources ever since the end of World War II.

On the day of the Great Winter Warm-up, volunteers are invited to help make comforters at any of the national events listed at Sewing groups and individuals are welcome to participate at home or other locations and can contact their regional MCC office for details.

Locally the event will be held at Salem Mennonite Church (Kidron), 3363 Zuercher Road, Dalton, on Friday, Jan. 17 from 1-9 p.m. and Saturday, Jan. 18 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Participants will work together to combine handmade comforter tops, warm batting and sturdy backing fabric into warm, durable comforters. The squares of fabric that make up the comforter tops have already been sewn together, so volunteers will primarily knot the layers together.

Each comforter is unique and conveys a message of compassion, said J Ron Byler, MCC U.S. executive director.

“People who get these comforters realize they are getting something personal. Someone has chosen the fabric and crafted each one with their hands. They understand this is a gift of love,” Byler said.

In recent years comforters have brought warmth to people in Syria, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon who have lost family members, jobs and homes because of the war in Syria and other violence in the region. In Malawi, comforters were given to people whose homes were flooded and to refugees from neighboring countries.

MCC has been sending comforters to people in Ukraine who have been displaced by fighting in the eastern part of the country. Byler said the intrinsic message of compassion conveyed by the comforters is similar to the message MCC sent to people in Ukraine (then southern Russia) in the 1920s through food and clothing.

A.J. Miller, an MCC worker at the time, said the supplies appeared “almost miraculously from friends they had never seen or known, from someone who wished them well. It was love reaching out its strong hands across the waters and the plains, across oceans and continents.”

Kathy Fast of Winnipeg, Manitoba, a former MCC representative, experienced the joy that comforters can bring when she helped distribute comforters to an HIV support group in Zambia.

“One [woman] was so excited when she received her blanket that she took me by both hands and swung me onto her back and did a little jig, ululating and intermittently calling for her son to ‘come and see!’ My feet dangled off the ground throughout the dance. It was one of those moments one does not forget,” Fast said.

Individuals and churches can make comforters throughout the year, using instructions at or by joining other volunteers at any MCC material resources center.

For more information about making comforters for the Great Winter Warm-up or anytime, email Jennifer Steiner at or call 574-312-0330.

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