'It all goes to disaster response'

Hundreds gathered for the 24th Annual Mid-Atlantic Disaster Response Auction.


"I just really like to help people. That's why I do it."

—Lawrence Heffner

Hundreds of people gathered Saturday for the 24th Annual Mid-Atlantic Disaster Response Auction. The crowd bid on items including quilts, garden tools, dishes and even a car. The proceeds went to the Emergency Disaster Fund of the Church of the Brethren.

The Agricultural Center in Westminster, Md., was bustling with more than 20 tables staffed by local churches selling books, handicrafts and homemade goodies, including "Brethren Fries" - Immersed in water, Anointed with oil read the sign at the table.

"It all goes to disaster response - this is what it's all about," said David Braune, disaster response coordinator for the Mid-Atlantic district of the Church of the Brethren.

What's the "hot ticket" every year, besides the fries? Quilts, said Braune and others. Down the hall is the Quilt Room, and "that's the real excitement," said Braune.

The quilts are made and donated by Church of the Brethren quilting circles. Connie Bowman has been quilting for 18 years and can understand why the quilts are so popular. "They take a lot of work - our quilt took some 400 hours to make and it includes over 324,000 stitches," said Bowman, who was staffing the Quilt Room table. "They're beautiful, and they bring in about one-quarter of the auction's proceeds."

Bowman said the comforter-sized quilts bring in between $200 and $400, while the larger quilts can go for upwards of $1,000. Yet no matter how much money they can raise with a quilt, Bowman said she has other reasons for quilting.

"The quilting ladies at our church - we call our quilting circle a 'therapy session,'" she laughed. "We love it, and it's for a good cause."

In the auction's 24 years of existence, more than $915,000 has been donated to the Church of the Brethren's disaster fund - with the last two year's auctions bringing in more than $130,000 alone. Brethren churches around the region donate all the auctioned items.

Standing in front of the Emergency Response/Service Ministries display at the auction, Braune said he was proud of how churches come together to help. Lawrence Heffner stood by Braune and nodded. He's been on more than 30 work trips with Brethren Disaster Response. "You remember all the trips, you know, because you meet great people on all of them," he said. "I just really like to help people. That's why I do it."

Outside at the main auction, an auctioneer rattles off a fast pace of numbers and words, pointing at the crowd that sits on bleachers around him. Up for bid is a large china cabinet. Two people are vying for it - and after a short and good-natured bidding war, the cabinet goes for more than $600.

The crowd applauds and the two bidders shake hands and smile - matching the positive air that pervades the Church of the Brethren's work.

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