Amish and Mennonites have been putting on annual auctions for the benefit of Haiti for many years now. They take place in various locations across the nation, including communities in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Florida, and Illinois.
Furniture, quilts and other items are auctioned off at these large events. The Florida auction, held in Sarasota, is in fact taking place this weekend. The photos you see here are from yesterday (credit to flahba; more on Amish in Florida).
The Ohio auction happens in Holmes County, at the auction house at Mount Hope, with a number of auctioneers working in different venues on the expansive grounds. Lots of food too of course. While at the Ohio auction a few years back I tried a Haitian recipe cooked by a Mennonite group that had done relief work in the country. Rice, slightly spicy, I think there might have been bananas or plantains in there, I can’t quite recall.
Amish often work closely with Mennonite Central Committee, an organization which provides aid to poverty-stricken areas around the world, as well as with the Mennonite Disaster Service. Since Amish tend not to have formal outreach programs of their own, those Amish who wish to aid the needy further afield often channel their energies through these organizations, formally operated by their spiritual cousins.
Donald Kraybill writes on Amish involvement with the Mennonite Central Committee in The Riddle of Amish Culture:
One year some 1,200 Amish, in a four-day period, participated in a meat canning project for refugees in Bosnia. A mobile canner moves from area to area, utilizing local labor and donated beef. Sometimes the Amish purchase the beef and then provide the labor for canning it. “We could just buy the meat and send it there,” said one bishop, “but there’s much more satisfaction in helping to do something directly.”
Amish also frequently donate time and labor to help out in disaster-stricken areas, for example in helping to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in 2005, as well as following earlier hurricanes Hugo and Camille.
In all of these ways, the Amish extend a hand of friendship and care beyond their ethnic borders, and in the process, they are replenishing their own pool of social capital. For whether it is preparing for auctions, quilting for relief, packing clothes for the needy, or building homes for the homeless, they are doing it together–chattering away, telling stories, building community. This pattern of civic service and philanthropy is much different from the lone volunteer who extends a hand on a civic project or the philanthropist who writes a check in isolation. As they serve the needy, the Amish also build community.
I imagine this year’s auctions will have a strengthened sense of purpose in the aftermath of the earthquake. With aftershocks occurring and expected to continue, the situation in the poorest Western Hemisphere nation remains bleak.
If you would like to make a donation to one of the organizations mentioned here, try these links to the Mennonite Central Committee, and the Mennonite Disaster Service. Though they partner together, MDS works primarily in the US and Canada, with MCC being the lead organization for international relief. Therefore, donations intended for Haiti would be best sent to MCC.