Bob Lebold made his first donation to MCC when he was about 10 years old.
It was Christmas, sometime in the late 1960s, when Bob tagged along to the MCC office with his mom Elaine, Material Aid Supervisor, to help sort and bale clothing to be shipped overseas. The room was warm so young Bob removed his sweater to cool off — it was a beautiful brand-new sweater he had received for Christmas from his parents. A couple of hours later when the work was done he discovered his sweater was missing. “Was it a nice green one?” asked Floyd Martin, one of the volunteers. “Well, you just packed it in a bale - it’s going overseas!”
“Mom and Dad didn’t buy me another new one,” recalls Bob with a laugh.
The loss of his sweater notwithstanding, the work his mother did and the mission of MCC left an impression on Bob, and many years later he returned to MCC to take on the same role his mother had held, now called Material Resources Coordinator. “Coming back to the building that Mom worked in, it felt good. And when I got the job, it was an answer to prayer. I felt like I belonged.” Now retired, Bob remains in close contact with the current Material Resources Coordinator: his son, Jon.
“Honestly, I didn’t know that Grandma did this work back in the day until I called her to tell her about my new job and she goes, ‘Oh, you’ve got my old job!’” says Jon with a laugh. Jon’s sister, Beth Hovius, also works at MCC Ontario in the Revenue Development department as a Donor Stewardship Associate where she makes sure that donors know that their generosity is making a real and lasting impact in the world.
Elaine has many fond memories of her 13 years at MCC but her love for the work always came back to two things: the mission and the people. “We felt like we were a family. It was a feeling I’d never had before nor since – and I’ve had a number of jobs since. I just knew I was doing the thing I was needing to do.”
Elaine’s legacy at MCC Ontario includes not only her family following in her footsteps, but an insightful decision to start including what is now an icon of MCC in the shipments: the comforter. “Some of the shirts we received weren’t fit for shipping so our ladies would cut those shirts into patches and make comforters with them,” she explains. Today, comforters are as symbolic and important as ever: last year, MCC shipped 63,841 comforters from Canada and the US.
Back then, shipments included homemade and store-bought soap, health kits, sewing kits and bandages, as well as once-a-year “Christmas bundles” for children between the ages of four and 16. These bundles included a blouse or jumper and a skirt (for girls), or a pair of pants and a shirt (for boys) as well as a pair of socks, a toy, a bar of soap, a comb, and a toothbrush. These were all wrapped up in a towel and pinned with a safety pin.
“When we sent these Christmas bundles, we would receive cards of thanks.” Nearly 40 years later, thinking back to that gratitude makes Elaine emotional. “And it almost breaks my heart when I think of how thankful these people were for so little compared to what we had.”
As Donor Stewardship Associate, the essence of Beth’s job is relaying that thanks from recipients to donors. “It’s such a great feeling to show donors that we all had a hand in this – we couldn’t do this without the volunteers, without the donors… it’s awesome!”
All four Lebolds agree that working at MCC was and is a blessing. “You forget that people call this a job,” says Jon. “It’s so rewarding.”
MCC photo/Ken Ogasawara
Elaine now lives in North Bay with her husband Laverne but her heart remains close to the work of MCC. As for her children and grandchildren working at MCC, she feels what many Mennonites are shy to profess: pride. “I’m very proud that they are carrying on the torch that I started. And I want them to know that I’m extremely happy for them and I wish the Lord’s blessing on them every day.”
As MCC is turning 100 years old next year, so is the Material Resources department! To celebrate this milestone, there are several ways you can get involved:
Bucket of Thanks (aka relief kit) is a container filled with essential hygiene items intended for a family of four. MCC distributes these buckets to people around the world. Every bucket makes a difference to someone in need!
The Great Winter Warmup – Get involved with something big—record-breaking big! We're attempting to collect 6,500 comforters to deliver to people affected by conflict and disaster around the world. A handmade comforter provides not only warmth but also a tangible message to people in places like Syria or Ukraine that their needs are not forgotten. We need your help to reach our goal of 6,500 handmade comforters on January 18, 2020.