Akron, Pennsylvania, USA – When thousands of Anabaptists from around the world arrive in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania next July, they will each receive a hand-sewn bag, created from recycled materials by the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Material Resources Center (MRC). As excitement over these bags has grown, materials have come from surprising places.
After attending Paraguay’s Assembly in 2009, MRC staff suggested that event bags be created for Pennsylvania 2015. The bags are made from donated fabric and neckties and are the same pattern that MCC uses for school kits, which are distributed to refugee children around the world.
In Krefeld, Germany, a city where Mennonites had settled centuries before as silk weavers, children at the German Mennonite Convention used silk neckties for some of their activities. Generations ago, immigrants from Krefeld were some of the first to settle in Pennsylvania. When the connection was made, convention organizers spontaneously decided to donate all 250 ties for Assembly bags.
Minister Koo Jin Joo, a South Korean diplomat to the UN, visited the MRC during a trip to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania and was impressed by their creativity in repurposing items. After returning home, he told his staff about the Sewing Room: “There was a grandmother there who said that she needed thousands of neckties to use as shoulder straps for the book bags that they were sewing [for Mennonite World Conference] next summer.” He asked the diplomats and staff to help, and in several weeks, he had collected 34 neckties to help with this project.
MRC volunteers have been working hard. By the first week of January, 8000 bags were already done and volunteers were on track to have the rest completed in a few months. Not only were the bags made from recycled materials, reports PA 2015 organizer Liesa Unger, but they will serve another purpose after Assembly. Attendees can donate bags back to MCC to be used for school kits, making the bags fully recycled and recyclable.
Minister Koo presenting donated neckties to Doug Hostetter, director of MCC’s UN office. Photo by JeaHyun Nham
Liesa Unger with Mary Martin, a volunteer at the Mennonite Resource Center.