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Published: Sunday, 10/31/2004

Archbold sisters have right recipe for helping others



It was a Swiss Mennonite-style feast, served on good china with cloth napkins, followed by an invitation to see their marble roller collection and fancy quilts.

But at its heart, the three-course meal was a simple loaves-and-fishes story.

The Griesers donated this meal in their home to the Black Swamp Benefit Bazaar auction at the Fulton County Fairgrounds in June. The bidding stopped at $1,000. But after the buyer donated it back, the auctioneers sold it a second time for $800.

The bazaar benefited the Mennonite Central Committee, which can feed a family of four in Colombia for $6 a month. So with $1,800, the group could feed 1,200 people for 30 days.

Marge, 77, and Alta, 82 are big believers in such efforts.

"We get an awful lot of satisfaction out of knowing what we do is helping someone," Marge said, adding that such concerns help the sisters concentrate on bigger issues than their own aches and pains. "It's our Christian duty to use our talents not only for ourselves."

The other beneficiary of the bazaar was Sunshine Inc. of Northwest Ohio, which serves people with mental retardation and other disabilities.

Helping such organizations means so much to the sisters that they have put dozens of meals in their home on the auction block of Mennonite sales for anyone to purchase. Last week, everyone at their dining room table had ties to people they knew, but complete strangers have purchased some meals.

John Fronk, owner of the

Whitehouse Inn, was such a stranger a few years ago. He's since purchased several of their meals and taken employees and friends to the Griesers' home.

"They're two of the most wonderful people I've ever met in my life," said Mr. Fronk, who admired their cooking so much that he asked for several recipes.

Buying something the Griesers donate to benefit auctions - and they donate much more than home-cooked meals - usually means giving some serious cash to charity.

Last year a quilt they made for the Mennonite Relief Sale in Goshen, Ind., sold for $7,000. Another year, a peacock pattern quilt they stitched sold for $5,000 at the same sale about 140 miles west of Toledo.

The sisters each put about 150 hours into every quilt they stitch. The Griesers often spend five hours a day quilting and keep a quilt frame set up in the basement of their duplex in the Fairlawn Haven retirement complex. They started quilting for such sales in the mid-1980s when they retired. Marge was a licensed practical nurse at Toledo Hospital and Alta was a laborer at the La Choy Food Products Inc. plant in Archbold.

They donated the first dinners in their home about the same time. Like several other members of Central Mennonite Church near Archbold, they donated the promise of a meal in their home to raise money for the church youth group.

The sisters went on to donate dinners to larger sales where they don't know all the bidders.

It's all part of their plan of helping charities.

"We've been blessed with good health and resources to do these things," Alta said.

Contact Jane Schmucker at: jschmucker@theblade.com or 419-337-7780.

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