Jerry Toews, 71, of Goessel has provided restored vehicles for the Mennonite Central Committee relief sale for almost 20 years. At least five of his restored vehicles will be auctioned April 8-9 at the Hutchinson fairgrounds.
The mechanically inclined man said he likes anything old.
He said his involvement began when an elderly couple in the Tabor Mennonite Church asked him if they could donate an old 1928 Star Coupe to the MCC sale. It didn’t run.
Toews took it home, worked on it, and got it running. He said it sold well at the sale.
The next year, he fixed up an old Fordson tractor that was identical to the 50 sold by the newly formed MCC in the 1920s to Russian Mennonites after the Bolsheviks had taken everything they owned.
A Tabor student whose father had lived in Russia and had been the recipient of one of those tractors had heard the story recounted numerous times while growing up. He located the tractor in Canada, and Toews brought it to his place and restored it.
“We made a big deal out of it at the sale because of its historic significance,” Toews said. “It sold for $8,000 or $8,500.”
By that time, Toews had gained a reputation for restoring vehicles.
“People had vehicles parked in sheds who didn’t need them anymore and didn’t know what to do with them,” he said. “I suggested they donate them to the MCC sale.”
As a result, something that was part-time has become almost a full-time job. He has recruited a team to help him. They work year-round preparing vehicles for the sale.
“It’s more than one person can do,” Toews said.
Cory Unruh, who teaches automotive at Newton High School, volunteers mechanical work at Toews’ shop. Lowell Heinrichs does sheet metal work at his place. Bumper-to-Bumper Automotive in Goessel, operated by Brent and Russell Abrahams, donates parts.
This year, the team has restored and is offering for sale a 1948 Oldsmobile Coupe, 1967 F-750 heavy-duty farm truck, 1948-8N Ford tractor, 1951 Allis-Chalmers WD tractor, and a 1956 Minneapolis-Moline 445 tractor.
Toews views his work with MCC as being a good steward of his time. He said he is a big supporter of MCC for two reasons: first, it is one of the most efficiently run humanitarian organizations in the world, with 90 cents of every dollar going directly to missions; secondly, MCC teaches people how to better sustain themselves by providing them with the means to produce and by teaching improved ag practices.
Toews has served on the MCC sale board for many years. He and his wife are in charge of the chicken barbecue meal. Whitestone Mennonite church in Hesston provides the chicken, and the Toews provide the rest.
Toews said the sale involves more than 1,000 volunteers and raises more than $500,000 in 24 hours.
He said it feels good to know they are not just sitting around and complaining about all of the problems in the world.
“We have the satisfaction of knowing we are doing something to help people,” he said. “Through MCC, we can help them. They know us.”
If someone has a vehicle they would like to donate for a future sale, Toews may be contacted at (620) 367-8257.