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Oct. 21, 2021 | Thursday
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Bethany Mennonite Church slings borscht, blankets and baked goods at annual bazaar
Anne Bergan is one of the original organizers of Bethany Mennonite Church's Annual Borscht Lunch Bazaar. (Brittany Carter/Niagara Now)

Borscht, blankets and baked goods go hand-in-hand for Bethany Mennonite Church’s annual Borscht Lunch Bazaar, which drew in about 300 people last Saturday.

The church has been holding the bazaar for as long as anyone in the congregation could remember, and though no one could quite nail down when it began, Pastor Herb Sawatzky said it’s likely been about 50 years.

Anne Bergan, one of the original organizers for the borscht lunch bazaar, said it all started as a way for the new church to become involved with the community.

“We thought that was a great idea to get everyone involved. Young people, old people, but it also involved a lot of people making this borscht, this soup,” Bergan said. “As well as the bake sale and the bazaar.”

Bergan said it was a big undertaking for a church that was just starting out, but the community came together to pull it off.

“We all worked together and made it happen – it was good. The next year – let’s do it again. We’ve been doing it ever since,” she added.

This fundraiser is just one more way Bergan has been able to offer missionary help – supporting people in need is something she says is very important to her.

“When I was very young, my mother and dad instilled in me that there were people in need. And we thought we were the poorest because we lived on a homestead, much poorer than Little House on the Prairie. But even then, we were encouraged to give at least something every year,” Bergan said.

“Mission service was ingrained in each of my siblings when we were very, very young, and it’s never left us.”

Sue Weier, one of the key organizers for this year’s bazaar, said it’s one event where everyone from the church helps out.

“There’s a lot of work and the whole church is involved. It’s one time everyone comes together – young, old. So, it’s a fun day,” Weier said.

The bazaar has maintained its goal of bringing the community together and raising money – it’s now one of Niagara-on-the-Lake’s anticipated fall events.

Residents could stay for lunch or take borscht soup to go, while also browsing the bake tables and items for sale and bidding on the hand-crafted “quilts.”

“We call them quilts but they’re hand-tied – so in actuality they’re more of a comforter,” Weier said.

Bethany Mennonite Church is well-known for its blankets, Sawatzky said.

“We’re not the only ones who quilt but it’s a big part of what we do,” he added.

He said about half of the money raised during the bazaar goes to the Mennonite Central Committee, which does outreach work in about 130 countries.

The rest of the money goes toward local organizations like Red Roof Retreat, and some goes back into the quilting fund to cover the cost of supplies.

“We need to buy the material to make the quilts. These quilts get distributed around the world as well. The impact has really touched us. There’s a number of patients around the world who have asked to be buried in their quilts,” he said.

Bergan said when she crafts blankets, she likes to make them educational.

“So their mothers and dads can say, how many birds do you see, how many butterflies are there on these patches, how many colours? That’s what I like to do when I make a quilt,” she said.

And though the Borscht Lunch Bazaar is largely a fundraiser, Sawatzky said the church members enjoy getting together to make it all happen.

And each organizer agrees that it takes the entire church community to pull it all off.

“Another big part of it is we just love hanging out, love doing things together. We have so many people of the community coming out,” he said.

The church is always accepting donations of quilting supplies, Bergan said.

“And if anyone has any fabrics, or they have yarn. Please, we need it. We need supplies to make more blankets,” she said.

Donations of quilting supplies can be dropped off to the Bethany Mennonite Church on East and West Line Road, or by calling the church at,