Lee Family Vacation to the Mennonite Relief Sale

Posted on September 11, 2015 by Lydia Thornburg

contributed by Jonathan P. Larson

Every year in mid-September, a remarkable family threesome appears early at the Peach Cobbler Mennonite Relief Sale, taking their seats in the very front row of the Perry fairgrounds hall, auction number at the ready.  A grandfather, a mother and her teenage son have already scanned the quilts, the antiques, the tables of model tractors, tools and knick-knacks. What sets them apart is that the savvy bidder, the one who holds the all-powerful auction number, is the teenager, Allan Lee.  His grandfather, John William ‘Billy’ Gray, and Allan’s mother, Amanda Lee, who live together on the northern edge of Perry, may whisper encouragement or counsel, but it’s Allan who’s in charge having a discerning eye for interior decoration, a love of world globes, old manual typewriters and cash registers, given his fascination for ‘buttons’.

It just so happens that this annual visit to the auction that Amanda calls ‘a sort of – uh – family vacation’, falls about the time of Allan’s birthday.  This year is a biggie – his sixteenth.  When they take a breather from the excitement and shouting of chasing rare deals, they sit together at the lunch tables with a circle of family and friends. ‘It actually turns into a birthday party,’ explains Allan.  ‘And, get this, when we drive away it takes a pick-up truck to move all my ‘presents!’ That pickup truck might also come in handy for Allan whose dream is one day to go to culinary school in New York and gladden the world with exquisite French pastry. Amanda laughs an aside, “Imagine. His grandpa is a ground beef kinda guy.”  She adds with a mischievous twinkle, “If it’s New York, I’m coming, too!”  Allan’s not so sure about that.

But there’s more to this story of an intriguing family and its yearly appearance at a local charity auction.  Billy grew up near the neighboring town of Unadilla.  In late March, 1961 before there were advance warning systems, an F3 tornado tore into the community leaving behind a morning swath of a dead neighbor, of injury and ruin. Billy describes what he witnessed: ‘In the growing darkness, debris came skidding down the roads on the wind, limbs from old oaks tumbling down on homes and yards.’  And then there was the  aftermath: residents traumatized, roads impassable due to fallen trees, people paralyzed by an air of helplessness and bewilderment as the wind and rain died away.  “About 10 AM,’ recounts Billy, ‘a 2 ½ ton truck approached the town.  Out jumped a crew of plain-dress Mennonites from Montezuma.  With axes and chainsaws they began the all-important work of opening the blocked streets so that service vehicles could come and go.’

No one called them.  No one gave them orders.  They just showed up.  And they began clearing the roads.  “Through the day, they filled that truck with debris from the streets and hauled it away to the town dump,” remembers Billy.  So began the work of restoring a shattered town.

It is this encounter of 54 years ago, that draws Billy – and now his family, Amanda and Allan – to the Mennonite charity auction. Yes, the quilts are beautiful, the antiques and baked goods may delight your heart and belly.  But for Billy, it’s all about grateful remembrance of a certain terrible day when help appeared unbidden to get a punch drunk hometown back on its red clay feet. And that somewhere else today, some community has been rocked by trouble and needs a ‘2 ½ ton truck to roll in’ with able bodies, willing hearts and donated assistance.

This year’s Peach Cobbler Mennonite Relief Sale happens Sept. 11-12 at the Perry fairgrounds.  Proceeds go to help communities in need around the world. This year’s theme is education for neglected minorities in Europe and Africa.

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2015 Press Release

Posted on July 23, 2015 by jkidd
SEPTEMBER 11-12, 2015

Peach Cobbler Mennonite Relief Auction Press Release

July 23, 2015

“What’s a Mennonite Relief Auction?” Well, for starters, the 2015 Peach Cobbler Mennonite Relief Auction will take place on September 11 (Fri 6-9pm) and 12 (Sat 8-early afternoon) at the Georgia National Fairgrounds, I-75 Exit 135 in Perry, Georgia. Admission is free and the public is cordially invited to attend all events.

Relief sales are unique celebratory auctions organized by Mennonites across the United States and Canada to raise funds for people in need around the world. All items for sale at the auction are donated and sold to benefit Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), a worldwide ministry of Anabaptist churches that responds to basic human needs and works for peace and justice. The sale also benefits Christian Aid Ministries, a similar relief organization of the Amish and Mennonites.

This year’s focus is to support and assist MCC and its partners in the biblical mandate of “Making Faraway Neighbors Near.” By broadening our reach to help those who are faraway, the sale’s focus will be to share God’s love and compassion in the name of Christ through disaster relief, sustainable community development and justice and peacebuilding and in doing so bring their concerns near to our hearts.

The “Special Giving Project” at the Peach Cobbler Relief Sale will be focused on children in Serbia. Around the world, Roma people face discrimination. In the United States, some people refer to Roma as “gypsies” to imply that they are dishonest or criminals. Serbia, in southeastern Europe, is home to about half a million Roma people. Historically the Roma have been nomadic, so many Roma people are undocumented and cannot access basic social services. In Serbia, Roma live in isolated communities with high unemployment, poor housing conditions and poor health care. Because of bullying, discrimination and other barriers, many Roma children drop out of elementary school. Illiteracy has left Roma communities poor and underemployed. A Christian organization called Bread of Life has been tutoring young Roma students so that they don’t fall behind in school. At the same time, it works with Roma parents to encourage their children’s education. Bread of Life also meets with local government leaders and schools to advocate for the Roma community. Your gifts through the Peach Cobbler Mennonite Relief Auction will go to MCC’s work with Roma students in Serbia. To learn more about this program, “Integration through Education,” visit

So, the next question — “Are there Mennonites in the South?” Yes! The annual Peach Cobbler Auction ( is a collaborative effort of Mennonites from across the Southeast from the citified Mennonites of Atlanta to the rural Mennonites of Hickory, NC, Americus, GA., and everyone all around the southeastern states. All these Mennonites draw on their rich heritage of handicrafts, home cooking, and cooperation to present the sale. Featured items include handmade quilts, crafts, antiques, Amish-made furniture, home-canned foods, soft ice cream, and of course, peach cobbler.

The menu of activities on Friday and Saturday (September 11-12) is multifaceted, with a hymn sing and sale preview beginning at 7:00 p.m., Friday. If you miss the Mennonite a capella singing on Friday, pick up a CD of rich 4-part harmony singing on Saturday. Saturday’s events begin with a sale preview and breakfast at 8:00 a.m. The auction begins shortly after at 9:00 a.m. — don’t miss the delicious quilts, sumptuous handicrafts, and yummy antiques. If you come too late, you won’t be there for the best items as the auction ends mid afternoon when all is sold and gone! So come early, and add a little pepper to your menu of activities by visiting a hand quilting demonstration, the children’s activities, or the Homemade Craft Corner! BUT most of all welcome to some down-right good home cooking — barbequed chicken and peach cobbler!

The Peach Cobbler Sale is a time to make new friends. Everyone is welcome! We’ll see you September 11 & 12 where the incredibly lively antics of Mennonite auctioneers selling everything from fancy quilts to rustic tools will entertain you. It may not be a barn-raising, but it’s going to be a super good time for a special cause all rolled up in one!

Contact: Brenda Shelby, Treasurer at 404-344-5012 or [email protected], Sharon Rensberger Co-Chair at 404-404-536-3577 or [email protected] or Marilyn Schertz Co-Chair at 404-373-2907 or [email protected].

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