Volunteering at the New Hamburg Relief Sale

by Jason Gingrich

I have been a volunteer for the Mennonite Central Committee Relief Sale for about 27 years. I started as a small kid coming with my dad, Jim Gingrich, for the second shift of flipping sausages for the breakfast tent for Erb St. Mennonite Church. I always looked forward to going with him and Terry Jutzi to help out. After the sale both families would meet for a bbq at one of our houses.

Years later I became more involved with the breakfast during my MYF years with Dick Ernst. He was my youth mentor at that time. I remember our very early 5am rise Saturday morning to start the big kettle for it to boil in time to cook the sausages. For years we would sleep over onsite, sometimes in the old grandstands.

I started helping Jeremy Brubacher and Dick Ernst install and dismantle the sound system inside the arena for the quilt auction, as well as the sound system for the outdoor auction. Around that time I also started helping Ray Brubacher with the electrical installation for the MCC Relief Sale on the Friday and the tear down after the event on Saturday. For years I would help with serving at the promotion dinner at Bingaman’s. I feel the years in my youth spent volunteering at the
Mennonite Relief sale inspired my passion for my career as a Master Electrician specializing in large-scale special events. I am self employed and travel across Canada to manage all electrical elements of major festivals. It starts months in advance with planning, doing layouts and calculations. It includes running crews for the installation, the duration, and tear out of major festivals in Canada. Thanks to Ray Brubacher for involving me in the electrical at the Relief Sale when I was so young. 

Twelve years ago I was asked to take over the pancake part of the breakfast by the person in charge at the time. My father, Jim Gingrich, had just passed away so I declined. But after talking with my mom, Bonnie Gingrich, and some friends and family, we decided we should do it in memory of Jim. So that’s how Jimbo Cakes began.

Growing up Dad would make pancakes for lunch after church a good majority of Sundays. They were great, the whole family liked them. They were made from scratch, whipping the egg whites separately etc., and for sure we had to have real maple syrup. We would put diced apples in them and other kinds of fruits some times. 

For the past twelve years, with help from friends and family, we have been running Jimbo Cakes. And of course they are made from scratch, fresh eggs and real maple syrup. We have a crew with multiple mixers whipping the egg whites, and in large food grade pails mixing in the ingredients for the batter. We make batter for about 2500 pancakes, as it is needed which is basically constant from when we start selling at 7:00am till we finish around 11:00am. We have 7 grills with 2 shifts of volunteers to cook the pancakes. 

I have been organizing the layout of the tent, setting up tables, grills, the kettle for sausage, full 3 piece sink with two hot water tanks and hand washing station, commercial coffee maker, large exhaust fans, and electrical in tent. It has been fun for me with much to do, from the lighting and audio install for the quilt auction with Jeremy on Thursday. Electrical install Friday mornings, tent setup Friday afternoon in preparation for Friday night BBQ and continuing with the setup of breakfast tent after the BBQ closes for the night. Saturday morning 4am, it’s time to start the kettle and soon begin preparing batter for the pancakes and brewing the first batches of coffee. Once the breakfast sales are complete at around noon, we then tear down the breakfast tent. Once we are finished with that, we start to tear down the electrical on site and pickup all the gear. By 5:00 or 6:00p.m. trucks are loaded and I’m ready to head home for a relaxing evening.

I think volunteering is a great experience and am grateful for the experiences of being involved with so many wonderful organizations over the years. I look forward to continuing my involvement with the MCC Relief Sale for many more years to come.