By Linda Espenshade
July 28, 2021
Despite the economic upheaval of a global pandemic, generous donors showed their compassion for people in need around the world by contributing $109.8 million to Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) U.S.’ centennial fundraising campaign.
The funds support the current and future ministry of MCC – providing humanitarian relief in times of crisis, supporting sustainable development and strengthening peacebuilding initiatives. MCC works in 47 countries, including Canada and the U.S.
The three-year campaign, New Hope in the Name of Christ, culminated with the 2020 celebration of MCC’s 100-year anniversary. Giving surpassed the $100 million centennial goal by the end of MCC’s 2020-2021 fiscal year in March.
“The outcome would be amazing even under regular circumstances,” said Phil Rush, director of MCC U.S. Donor Relations. “With the impacts of COVID-19 in the past year, the results are even more astounding.
“We asked people to help strengthen MCC’s mission and ministry as we enter our next 100 years and people responded – generously. Thanks be to God!”
This comprehensive campaign included core giving of $76.9 million that was used over three years to support existing projects. Donors also gave campaign designated gifts of almost $8.5 million and $24.4 million of endowments gifts and estate commitments.
Because of the impact of COVID-19, MCC U.S. used some donations immediately to strengthen its international health work.
Many of MCC’s partners educated families about COVID-19 prevention in creative ways – using loud speakers, texts, signs, T-shirts and individual, masked conversations at handwashing stations – instead of holding group trainings. Food distributions helped relieve COVID-19’s economic impact on recipients.
In the U.S., MCC distributed canned meat through churches to people in increased need. Extra funds were given to churches and families that faced economic difficulties in cooperation with Everence and Mennonite Disaster Service.
In Syria, the Middle East Council of Churches used centennial giving to teach new job skills to people suffering because of the 10-year war that devastated their country. Small grants helped people who didn’t have enough capital of their own to start new businesses.
Salam, a 49-year-old man from a Damascus suburb, had no funds to restart his furniture-finishing business that was destroyed, along with the house he shared with his siblings. His family was forced to rent, and he worked for another business.
Through the training, Salam said he learned ways to improve his business practices. And with the grant, he purchased tools, rented a workshop and restarted his business. With the profit, he can help pay for his brother’s cancer treatment.
“I was able to achieve my dream that I thought would never be fulfilled,” said Salam, whose real name is not being used for his security. “My psychological well-being improved as well, and I am more optimistic, knowing that tomorrow will bring good things.”
Campaign designated gifts also are being used in the U.S. to help immigrants access legal assistance and immigration information. In addition, faith-based partners and churches are giving practical support to people at risk of imprisonment, those who are incarcerated and people who are re-entering society.
“One hundred years ago, MCC grew out of people’s love and compassion for people in southern Russia (present-day Ukraine) who were displaced and were experiencing extreme hunger and war,” said Ann Graber Hershberger, MCC U.S. executive director. “Today, supporters are still living out Jesus’s call to love their neighbors through MCC. We are so grateful to work together in this ministry.”
To help ensure that MCC will continue to serve people in need for the next 100 years, donors made gifts and pledges of $24 million. Interest from the endowment will help sustain MCC financially and help limit the impact of future economic crises.
A network of 32 volunteer fundraisers helped MCC U.S. Donor Relations staff raise money for the centennial campaign by talking with people who shared a passion for helping and strengthening others through MCC. Dale and Kay Kempf from Libertyville, Illinois, were among the volunteers.
As donors to the campaign themselves, the Kempfs invited people to join them in making large gifts. Thinking about the impact of those gifts began to affect Kay Kempf personally.
“You start to imagine how your gift is going to be transformative in the lives of those affected. And it also starts to transform you,” she said. “I found it very moving, the fact that giving, like God asks us to do … is really a sacred opportunity.”
Mennonite Central Committee: Relief, development and peace in the name of Christ
Linda Espenshade is MCC U.S. news coordinator.