First female auctioneer continues family tradition at MCC Festival

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Jennifer Forbes was the first female auctioneer to serve at the Mennonite Central Committee Festival for World Relief in Abbotsford, B.C., Sept. 6–7, 2013. Forbes lent her sing-song voice to the Friday evening auction and sold the loaf of bread on Saturday morning.

What makes this milestone poignant for MCC is that Jennifer Forbes is the daughter of the late Clyde Dougans, MCC auctioneer for more than 35 years. Dougans died suddenly in March.

“My lungs felt pretty shaky at first,” she said. “But when I got my first $5,000 bid from someone I didn’t know, I knew I was going to be okay.”

Forbes, who lives and works as a chiropractor in Chilliwack, was born the year that Dougans graduated from auctioneering school. The MCC Festival was her father’s favourite event; for years, he’d urged her to get training. The week before he died, he found his old textbook and brought it to her.

“He was going to do a small auction at my church that week,” she said. “He died on a Thursday and the auction was the next day. So I did it.”

She decided that she would honour her father’s wish. Since April, Forbes has been training with an auction coach, preparing for the MCC Festival.

Both Friday and Saturday auctions start with the symbolic auctioning of a loaf of bread – “The Staff of Life” – recognizing that food is essential to the well-being of all people and that bread is common to many cultures. Rather than having the bread go to a single donor, MCC allows bidders to come in at various price points. This year, that communal effort raised $172,250.

Forbes looked relaxed and confident as she led the auction, belying the butterflies underneath. She attributes that to the good training she’s received and the support of family and friends. She enjoyed the experience and it looks like the family tradition of participating in the MCC Festival will continue.

“I’ll be back next year,” she said with a smile.

The MCC Festival for World Relief raised more than $600,000 this year supporting the relief, development and peace work of Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) in more than 60 countries around the world.

Noteable numbers:

Live Auction:

a 26-metre sailboat sold for $23,000

a single-owner 1980 Mercedes sold for $55,00

total raised – nearly $75,000

Quilt Auction:

30 quilts raised more than $30,000

highest selling quilt went for $3,500

custom quilt (successful bidder works with MCC quilters to choose the colours and design) sold for $3,000

Children’s Auction:

children bid on kid-friendly items: raised $1,876

Pedaling for Hope cyclathon:

67 riders

raised $60,000 for MCC food security projects

Food sold or consumed:

19,200 vereniki

1,700 lbs of farmer sausage

140 large pizzas

more than 8,000 lbs of fresh produce and grains from the Okanagan

Penny Power received thousands of pennies (and other coins). These donations are matched 4:1 by CIDA through MCC’s account at the Canadian Foodgrains Bank and will support farmers in Burundi.


1,180 volunteers from 75 different churches

“That literally moved me to tears, as I realized anew what a fantastic ‘coming-together’ this is, being the hands and feet of Jesus in a broken world!” says relief sale coordinator Dora Hoeppner, who said the atmosphere was one of giving and generosity. Those who didn’t find anything to buy or bid on simply gave, donating more than $92,000 to MCC’s work.

2012 photo: 35-year volunteer Clyde Dougans (1951–2013) was a fixture at the annual MCC Festival for World Relief in Abbotsford where he entertained crowds as an auctioneer, helping MCC to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars.


From spring through fall 2013, second-hand treasure hunters, fair trade aficionados, and lovers of home-baked goods and auction-day adrenaline can indulge their hobbies at Mennonite Central Committee sale events across Canada that raise money for development work nationally and internationally.

May 25: New Hamburg (Ont.) Mennonite Relief Sale
May 25: Black Creek (B.C.) World Relief Fair
June 1: Leamington (Ont.) Mennonite Community Festival
June 7–8: Relief Auction and Bazaar, Coaldale, Alta.
June 14–15: “Providing water for life” Relief Sale and Auction, Saskatoon
June 29: Charity Auction for Relief, Aylmer, Ont.
Sept. 6–7: Festival for World Relief, Abbotsford, B.C.
Sept. 14: Relief Auction Sale, Morris, Man.
Sept. 21: Relief Sale, Brandon, Man.
Sept. 21: Toronto Mennonite Festival
Sept. 28: Mennonite Fall Fair, Prince George, B.C.
On the East Coast, Maritimers enjoyed Ten Thousand Villages festival sales in 3 locations throughout September.


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