On January 18, the forecast in more than 100 locations across three continents was identical: flurries of comforters.
Despite heavy snowstorms in some areas, thousands of people gathered to sew comforters during The Great Winter Warm-up, a comforter making event organized by Mennonite Central Committee (MCC). Groups met across Canada, the U.S. and Europe with a goal of creating 6,500 comforters to distribute to people affected by disasters and conflict around the world.
With winter winds howling outside, volunteers kept warm inside while tying thousands of knots to finish the multicoloured blankets. After many cups of coffee, breaks for delicious food and a few rounds of spontaneous singing, the event came to a close.
Together, the participants not only met but surpassed the original goal. They set a record of 9,504 comforters donated to MCC!
pile of about 1000 completed comforters at the MCC Material Resources Centre in
Winnipeg, Man. Throughout the event, volunteers created a total of 9,504
comforters. (MCC photo/Sophia Bezoplenko)
Throughout the event, participants began to make this experience their own. One group in the Netherlands had so much fun that they planned to meet and create comforters on a regular basis afterwards. At another event in Winnipeg, Man., one group decided to time themselves in order to create comforters as efficiently as possible. Several of the events had multiple generations working on the same comforter, great-grandparent and great-grandchild working in sync.
Stories of the lasting impacts of MCC’s relief work also materialized. One of the participants at an event in Germany mentioned that as a child she had been wrapped in an MCC comforter after the end of the Second World War.
(L to R) Amal Abujayyab, Shergo Ibrahim, Donna Entz and
Sedra Mustafa work on a comforter together at The Great Winter Warm-up event in
Edmonton, Alta. Abujayyab’s family is from Gaza and are currently in Edmonton
on a visitor visa, hoping for refugee status. She spoke about what it was like
for children to grow up in the war zone in Gaza. Ibrahim was
originally recruited to drive IFSSA (Islamic Family and Social Services Agency,
an MCC partner) volunteers to the event but ended up staying for the day to
help knot and sew because he thought it was such a great project. (MCC
In Alberta, a group from the Islamic Family & Social Services Association (IFSSA) heard about the event and wanted to help. “[The] majority of them came from refugee camps and they still remember the bitter taste of life and the harshness of the cold winter there,” said Rola Mustafa, refugee support manager at IFSSA.
“The ladies were so overwhelmed with a sense of happiness and fulfillment; this is why all of them stayed till the end of the day. We'd like to thank MCC for always giving us a chance to give back,” she said.
Stories like these underscore the importance of MCC’s work as the organization enters its centennial year. It was a fitting way to kick off the celebration by doing the same type of work that inspired MCC’s creation 100 years ago: sharing gifts of love and compassion in the name of Christ.
The comforters created during the event will be distributed along with others collected during the year to bring relief to those affected by disasters and conflict.
“Comforters are an excellent metaphor for the nature of our work around the world,” says Rick Cober Bauman, executive director of MCC Canada. “One square of fabric alone cannot keep the cold away, but many pieces connected together produce warmth against the cold.”
MCC would like to thank all the volunteers and participants who made this event possible.
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