When no volunteers stepped up to coordinate making fritters for the West Coast Mennonite Relief Sale and Auction April 12-13, 2019, at Fresno (California) Pacific University, attendees got a lesson in supply and demand.
By the time auctioneer Todd Croissant’s gavel fell April 13, a dozen fritters sold for a $1,100 donation supporting Mennonite Central Committee.
“Fritters, as far as I know, have been at the sale since the very beginning,” says relief sale chair Steve Goossen of the balls of dough filled with raisins that are fried and rolled in sugar—also known at other relief sales as new year’s cookies.
“It’s just a habit. You go to the sale, you get fritters,” Goossen says. “And we just couldn’t find anybody last year. Through the winter and then at crunch time we said, ‘What are we going to do?’ ”
In typical years, about 10,000 fritters are made by at least 70 people working in two-hour shifts with hot oil on three burners. But disaster struck when Steve Wiest, who had coordinated the effort for five or six years, had a conflict. Wiest attends the Mennonite Brethren church in Kingsburg, California.
“He had to go do Mennonite Disaster Service work, so he went from one Mennonite thing to the next,” Goossen says.
The fritters’ absence was the talk of the sale Friday evening. As Barb Hofer talked with Croissant by the ice cream booth, he suggested they could auction some off, if some were to show up.
Hofer and her husband served with MCC in the 1980s in Nigeria and have helped with the sale for at least three decades. It was another way to lend a hand.
“I said, ‘Well, I could make some if I have energy for it,’ ” said Hofer, who attends Dinuba MB Church and usually donates quilts—not fritters—to the sale. “So, I got up early the next morning and made them before I went to the sale. It was just a spur-of-the-moment thought.”
Goossen says the sale board didn’t ask anyone to prepare fritters for auction.
“When he started out at $1,000 everyone gasped,” he says of the auction. “Then he dropped down to $500 and then he worked his way up in 25s, and then it was $1,000, and then he got $1,100 and that was it and everybody applauded. . . . I was in shock for the first 30 seconds.”
Hofer recalls that Croissant told her he thought they might sell for $500 and didn’t dream it would keep going up.
“He auctioned off one dozen and then he said, ‘Well, I have one more dozen.’ And he pulled more out from under the table,” she says. “And the second bidder said yes, so we got $2,100 for it. For me, it was an exciting adventure. . . .
“It’s fun when it’s something that’s just a few cents and goes for a high price, because their heart is just about giving a donation.”
By the end of the weekend, Goossen says four or five people had come forward with interest in coordinating the fritter booth next year.
“We’re going to get a hold of them through the summer and winter. Maybe it will be a team effort,” he says.
By that time, the demand will still be there, and a greater supply ought to bring down the price.
This article was first published in Mennonite World Review and is reprinted by permission.
Tim Huber is associate editor of Anabaptist World, an independent journalistic ministry serving the global Anabaptist movement. He worked at Mennonite World Review, an independent newspaper, from 2011 until 2020 when MWR merged with The Mennonite, a 135-year-old denominational magazine, to form Anabaptist World. A graduate of Tabor College, he and his wife, Heidi, served with Mennonite Central Committee in Germany, where the first of their three children were born. His family attends Shalom Mennonite Church in Newton, Kansas.