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Mennonite Central Committee Archives

American Friends Service Committee

  • MCC US
  • Corporate body
  • 1917 -

Formed April 1, 1917, to represent the Society of Friends in the fields of social action, the American Friends Service Committee now engages in a wide range of foreign and domestic projects to express the Quaker belief in the power of constructive goodwill to take away the occasion of war. During and after World War I the AFSC carried on extensive relief operations, independently and co-operatively with English Friends and other relief organizations, in France, Germany, Austria, Russia and other European countries. At the time this was written, the AFSC was an incorporated body of four hundred members with and executive board of seventeen operating with funds derived principally from private individuals, organizations and foundations. Through its Foreign Service Section, it occupied abroad in child-feeding refugee aid, and other practical relief service to civilians. Other sections carried on domestic activities in the fields of Civilian Public Service, peace education, international fellowship, social-industrial relations, and clothing assistance.

American Mennonite Relief Commission

  • MCC US
  • Corporate body
  • 1921-1926

In his letter to Soviet officials on 9 September 1921, A. J. Miller, director of American Mennonite Relief (AMR), explained the nature and purpose of the organization. Miller stated that the AMR “is an unofficial, volunteer, American organization for social service. It maintains a base at Constantinople where relief supplies are ready for prompt shipment to Russia to be received and distributed by the American Mennonite Relief organization.”
The AMR was a special organization set up under the Mennonite Central Committee to distribute relief in Russia. It operated during the entire Russian famine period, working under its agreement of 1 October 1921, with the Moscow government and under the agreement with the Soviet Republic obtained by the American Relief Administration (ARA) with which and under which organization AMR carried on its relief activities up to the time of the closing of the ARA in 1923. A resolution of the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) on 1 August 1925, called for the closing of the work of the AMR on 1 October, but the organization was not disbanded until 1926.
The agreement between the AMR and the Soviet Republic contained 19 points. Point one stated that the AMR, within the limits of its resources and facilities, would supply "food, clothing, and medical relief to the needy civilian population, especially women and children and the sick, regardless of race, religion, or social or political status." Although the preamble of the agreement had expressed the desire of the American Mennonites to give impartial aid "in the regions where their coreligionists are suffering from the effects of the famine" and although most of the aid was given in the Mennonite settlements of southern Russia, the purpose of AMR was to give relief wherever it was needed.

The total disbursements made by the MCC for Russian relief during the years of the AMR amounted to $1,292,825.65. Among the American Mennonites who participated in the work of the AMR in Russia were A. J. Miller, Clayton Kratz, P. C. Hiebert, O. O. Miller, Arthur Slagel, C. E. Krehbiel, G. G. Hiebert, Mr. and Mrs. D. M. Hofer, P. H. Unruh, H. C. Yoder, and Dan Schroeder. A. J. Miller was director of the AMR throughout its history.

Hiebert, P. C. and O. O. Miller. Feeding the Hungary, Russian Famine 1919-1925. Akron, PA, 1929. GAMEO Online Encyclopedia.

American Relief Administration

  • MCC US
  • Corporate body
  • 1919-1923

The American Relief Administration (A.R.A.) was formed by Herbert Hoover in February, 1919, at the direction of President Wilson, to distribute the official overseas relief from the United States during the Armistice Period, particularly the supplies furnished under the $100,000,000 Congressional appropriation for relief in Europe. The buying and shipping of all relief supplies was done through the Food Administration Grain Corporation, a subsidiary of the United States Food Administration. In many respects the A.R.A. became the international branch of the United State Food Administration, which had been set up by President Wilson on August 14, 1917, with Hoover as director, to economize food supplies in the United States and to create a single selling agency to handle food deliveries to the Allied countries. Following the signing of the Armistice, inter-Allied machinery was set up to coordinate relief operations, with Hoover as Director General. In practice, however, Hoover’s function as director of relief arose from his position as head of the A.R.A. which played the major role in the entire relief program until the signing of the Peace Treaty at Versailles, June 28, 1919. That date marked the end of inter-Allied collaboration, and from that time on the A.R.A. and the Grain corporation were engaged in liquidating commitments. To continue relief for the undernourished children of Europe, Hoover organized a completely private organization in July, 1919, the American Relief Administration European Children’s Fund (known was E.C.F.) which took over the equipment and personnel of the A.R.A. and the Grain Corporation as they withdrew from the field. It continued their work without a break in the program, feeding some 10,000,000 children in all. Under the division of Special Funds, the E.C.F. carried on extensive intelligentsia and student relief, as well as other forms of adult relief. In January, 1920, a separate but correlated organization was set up, with Hoover as head, known as the American Relief Administration Warehouses (A.R.A.W.) , which handled all food draft and bulk sale operatives during the existence of E.C.F. Finally the Russian famine made expansion necessary and the old title of American Relief Administration was again adopted in May, 1921, and kept until the close of operations in July, 1923. Funds handled in the last two phases amounted to over $220,000,000 and were obtained from the profits of the Grain Corporation (which were turned over to the E.D.F.), millions of private contributions, contributions from organization and foundations, and Congressional appropriations.

Bender, Harold Stauffer

  • MCC US
  • Person
  • 1897-1962

On January 18, 1930 Harold S. Bender attended an MCC Executive Committee meeting as a member of the Colonization Study Committee. MCC appointed Bender to a Study Committee to investigate and provide MCC with accurate reports of conditions in Russia and Germany. Bender reported back to the MCC Executive Committee with possibilities of providing relief (July 5, 1930 MCC Minutes). In 1936 he served on the Peace Problems Committee of the Mennonite Church and became the Chairman of the International Mennonite Peace Committee. In 1942 Harold became chairman of the MCC Peace Section. Dr. Bender continued to serve on the MCC Executive Committee and the MCC Peace Section until his passing in 1962.

Corporación Paraguaya

  • MCC US
  • Corporate body
  • 1920. Purchased by MCC in 1937. Liquidated assets in 1952.

When some Canadian Mennonites moved to Paraguay in the 1920s, several corporations were formed to help dispose of their land and equipment in Canada and to secure land for them in the Paraguayan Chaco. The Intercontinental Company, Limited, was organized to handle the Canadian transactions, and the Corporación Paraguaya was organized to handle the Paraguayan transactions. Incorporated in Asunción in April 1926, with a capitalization of $750,000, Corporación Paraguaya specifically was to arrange for the purchase of Chaco land from the Carlos Casado Company, which owned three million acres between the Paraguay River and the Bolivian border west of Puerto Casado. The corporation was then to sell the lands to the Mennonites from Canada and to help manage the details of actual settlement of the Canadians on their lands. The leading spirit in this organization, as well as in the Intercontinental Company, Limited, was General (retired) Samuel McRoberts, a prominent financier who was president of the Chatham-Phoenix National Bank of New York and vice-president of the National City Bank.
Already in 1919 a delegation of Old Colony Mennonites from Canada had made contact with McRoberts through Fred Engen and asked him to help them find a new home. On board ship en route to Argentina in 1920, McRoberts met Manuel Gondra, president-elect of Paraguay, and Eusebio Ayala, his foreign minister, later the president of Paraguay and also of the newly organized Corporación Paraguaya. These men persuaded McRoberts to investigate Paraguay as a possible future home for Mennonites. McRoberts hired Fred Engen, experienced and once wealthy land agent, to help explore the possibilities of the Paraguayan Chaco. Though the group of Canadian Mennonites that was originally interested in Paraguay decided to settle in Mexico, another Mennonite group from Canada took advantage of the aid extended by McRoberts and established Menno Colony in the Chaco. Since the sums involved in buying the Canadian lands of the Mennonites and selling them to others, and in buying and selling the Chaco lands to the Mennonites, were quite large, McRoberts took on a partner in the operations, Edward B. Robinette, head of the investment banking firm of Stroud and Company in Philadelphia.
Corporación Paraguaya purchased from the Casado Company 100 square leagues of land, over 100 miles west of the Paraguay River, for $733,950, in American gold. This was approximately 720 square miles, or 463,387 ½ acres. Of this amount the Canadian Mennonites purchased 30 square leagues, or 138,990 acres. Smaller additional amounts were purchased later. Buying the land at $1.50 per acre from Casado, Corporación Paraguaya sold it at $5.00 per acre to the Mennonites.
The corporation also helped with the arrangements for housing the Canadians in Puerto Casado in wooden barracks and tents, until they could settle on their lands. Repeated delays in the land surveys which the corporation had agreed to undertake caused a great deal of discontent among the Mennonites, 16 months elapsing after the arrival of the first colonists before they were able to make the first settlements. After Menno Colony was organized, the Corporation lent a helping hand to the needy in the colony by lending over $10,000 for an indefinite period without interest, and by extending credit in the two stores it established in and near the colony. At its Chaco headquarters at Hoffnungsfeld, near Menno Colony, the corporation operated, in addition to a store, a sawmill, a workshop, and an agricultural experiment station. After a few years, however, these were abandoned, and the corporation gradually withdrew from the enterprise, leaving the colony on its own. In 1937 the Mennonite Central Committee purchased Corporación Paraguaya for $57,500 and thus inherited its financial arrangements with Menno Colony, as well as with the more recently established Fernheim, a colony of Mennonites from Russia. It liquidated the remaining assets of the corporation in 1952. Though the corporation was the subject of much complaint, and though those in the enterprise did not have the qualifications of skill which such an undertaking required, it appears that the mistakes made were those of inexperience and ignorance, and not necessarily fraud and sharp practice. The complete records of the C.P. are in the Archives of the Mennonite Church at Goshen, Indiana.
Mennonite Central Committee files include hard copy files starting in 1927.
Smith, Willard H. “Corporacion Paraguaya.” Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1953. Web 28 Jan 2021

Department of U.S. Ministries

  • MCC US
  • Corporate body
  • 1975-1979

The first meeting of Mennonite Central Committee’s Department of United States Ministries (USM) met on April 29 and 30, 1975 in Chicago, Illinois. The Department of United States Ministries was officially created at MCC’s 1975 Annual meeting in Winnipeg, Manitoba. This department began operation by administering MCC’s voluntary service program in the United States but had a broader mandate to expand into wider areas of need as they were discovered and brought before the department by its members. Initial members of this department were Leon Stauffer, general secretary of Eastern Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities, to represent Eastern Board: Sam Weaver, principal of Eastern Mennonite High School, to represent the Mennonite Church; Charles Neufeld, voluntary service coordinator at Markham, Ill., to represent General Conference; John Kliewer, pastor of the Silver Lake Mennonite Brethren Church, Marion, S. D., to represent the Mennonite Brethren Church; Wilmer Heisey, Brethren in Christ Mission Board, to represent the Brethren in Christ Church; Robert Friesen of the Fresno, Calif., housing authority counseling services to represent MCC-West Coast, and Newton Gingrich, member of MCC Executive Committee and moderator of the Mennonite Church, to represent MCC-Canada. By involving representatives from various conferences in an inter-Mennonite effort, the department also planned to provide resources to conferences and congregations on offender ministries, poverty, housing, children's services, minority ministries and similar topics, to study the nature and effect of Christian service ministries on those who serve and those being served and to discern who should continue to shepherd those coming into a relationship with Jesus Christ through MCC services.

At the September 13, 1979 meeting of the MCC U.S. Executive Committee it was decided that USM would integrate with MCC US. The USM held it’s last meeting on October 19-20, 1979.

MCC Canada Eastern Canada Programs

  • MCC CA
  • Corporate body
  • 1972 -

MCC Canada’s Eastern Canada Programs began in 1963 when the MCC office based in Akron, Pennsylvania, began transferring responsibility for their Newfoundland and Quebec programs to the newly established MCC Canada. MCC had been sending Voluntary Service workers to Quebec since the 1950s and to Newfoundland as teachers and nurses since 1954. The Newfoundland and Quebec programs continued to be administered from Akron until they were taken on completely by the MCC Canada Executive Office and run through its Voluntary Service program in the early 1970s.

In 1972, the Newfoundland Program appointed its first resident director on a one-year Voluntary Service basis, thus becoming the first of MCC Canada’s Eastern Canada Programs. In 1982, in response to an increased desire for more MCC Canada programming in the other Atlantic provinces, MCC Canada established the Maritimes Program with an office in New Brunswick. There was also a steady increase in funding along with the number of Voluntary Service workers being sent to Quebec programs throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Since 1982, MCC Canada’s National Program Department has taken on greater responsibility for the Eastern Canada Programs in Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, and the Maritimes. In 1987, the Quebec Program also became an official Eastern Canada Program. In 2019, MCC Canada closed its Newfoundland and Labrador Program, leaving the Quebec Program and Maritimes Program as the only remaining Eastern Canada Programs.

MCC Canada Economic Justice Program

  • MCC CA
  • Corporate body
  • 1986-2007

The MCC Canada Economic Justice Program began in 1986 under the name Employment Concerns. The proposed program had been under discussion within MCC Canada since 1983 when a major recession caused high levels of unemployment among Canadians.

The Economic Concerns program was initiated to provide leadership in the development of a theology of work and to encourage awareness and education about employment concerns within the MCC constituency. Job creation initiatives were undertaken in consultation and cooperation with provincial MCC offices; MCC Canada’s role in the program was to facilitate and coordinate economic efforts. Projects were initiated through consultation with businesspeople, conference groups, and agencies. The program emphasized cooperation with groups and fostering local ownership of projects.

One of the first major projects supported by the program was the founding of the Edmonton Recycling Society, a non-profit agency which collected recyclables from households in Edmonton. The agency employed ninety people, fifteen of whom had disabilities. Other job creation initiatives supported by the program included a landscaping project, several housing-renovation projects, and a venture in forestry management. By 1992, the program had created 500 long-term and 300 short-term jobs and provided job training for 500 more.

While the program was active, it was called Employment Concerns (1986-1992), Employment Development (1992-ca.1997) and finally Economic Justice (ca.1997-2007). Although the Economic Justice program was discontinued in 2007, many of its functions and activities continue through initiatives and programs at the provincial MCC level.

MCC Canada Executive Office

  • MCC CA
  • Corporate body
  • 1963 -

MCC Canada’s Executive Office was established when MCC Canada began in 1963. Since then, the Executive Office has been mandated to supervise all MCC Canada departments and to work together with the provincial MCCs. In January 1964, J.M. Klassen, MCC Canada’s first Executive Director, established operations of MCC Canada at 104 Princess Street in Winnipeg. The MCC Canada Executive Committee met at the office four times annually and played an important role in shaping the organization in its early years. The Executive Committee was elected by and from the board of MCC Canada; the board consisted of an official representative for each of the five provincial MCCs, four members at large, a representative from MCC in Akron, and representatives from each of the participating conferences/groups that “owned” MCC Canada.

In 1992, the Red River Accord was signed by MCC Canada and the provincial MCCs; it provided clarity concerning MCC program priorities in Canada and established an agreement for revenue sharing between MCC Canada and provincial MCCs. Greater member representation was granted to the provincial MCCs on the MCC Canada Board and Executive Committee, with the intention of encouraging greater cooperation between all MCC entities in Canada.

In the years 2008-2012, extensive structural changes occurred across MCC as a result of the New Wine/New Wineskins process. While MCC Canada’s Executive Office maintained its supervisory position within MCC Canada’s organizational structure, increased cooperation with the provincial MCCs and MCC U.S. was required in some departments after 2012.

MCC Canada Indigenous Neighbours Program

  • MCC CA
  • Corporate body
  • 1974 -

The work of MCC Canada’s Indigenous Neighbours program began in 1974 with the creation of the Native Concerns program. The mandate of the program was to aid and advocate on behalf of Indigenous people and communities in Canada.

Before the program’s official beginnings, MCC had been involved with Indigenous people and communities through membership in ecumenical organizations and MCC Voluntary Service placements. The establishment of the Native Concerns program in 1974 increased MCC Canada’s involvement with Indigenous communities considerably. MCC Canada’s Voluntary Service workers implemented Native Concerns programming in Indigenous Communities, an emphasis on resource development grew through wildlife management, animal husbandry, and gardening programs, and efforts were made to encourage local industries that benefited Indigenous groups.

In 1991, Menno Wiebe, long-time director of the program, proposed that MCC Canada should extend an official apology to the Indigenous Peoples of Canada. This proposal emerged after twenty-plus years of MCC work alongside Indigenous communities through the Native Concerns program and its various activities. The official apology was given at MCC Canada’s annual meeting of 1992; it recognized the colonial legacy of Mennonite settlement in Canada and expressed MCC Canada’s intention to work towards reconciliation. A shift in the mandate of the program followed; greater emphasis was given to justice advocacy in areas of treaty rights, resource rights, and land use, and a commitment to collaborate with Indigenous partners was made.

The originally titled Native Concerns program has also been called Native Issues (1997), Aboriginal Neighbours (1998-2007), Work with Aboriginal People (2007-2008), Work with Indigenous People (2008-2011), and has been called the Indigenous Neighbours program since 2012. MCC Canada’s Indigenous Neighbour’s program continues together with the programs of provincial MCC’s through the Indigenous Neighbours Network. The network strives to build respectful relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people and collaborates with Indigenous partners to advocate for positive political, social, and economic change for Indigenous Peoples.

MCC Canada Maritimes Program

  • MCC CA
  • Corporate body
  • 1982 -

MCC Canada’s Maritimes Program began in 1982 when a new Maritimes regional office was established separately from the Newfoundland and Labrador office. This new office provided support for Voluntary Service workers in Atlantic provinces other than Newfoundland and Labrador since, by the late 1970s, there was growing interest in expanding Voluntary Service opportunities beyond Newfoundland and Labrador into the other Atlantic Provinces. The first Maritimes Program office was opened in Sussex, New Brunswick, in 1982, and was moved to Petitcodiac, New Brunswick in 1989. The Maritimes Program office ran programs in Saint John, Fredericton, Minto, Sussex, Petitcodiac, and Moncton, in New Brunswick; Charlottetown in Prince Edward Island; and Truro, Halifax, and Sydney in Nova Scotia. In 2000, the office was moved to a more central location in Moncton which allowed staff to connect more easily across the Maritimes.

Throughout its history, the Maritimes Program relied heavily upon MCC Voluntary Service workers to fulfill its activities in the region. The Maritimes Program introduced and implemented MCC Canada programming in the Maritimes including the Handicap Concerns, Employment Concerns, Restorative Justice, and Indigenous Neighbours programs, as well as other programs that respond to relevant social issues. The office has also partnered with local organizations that share MCC Canada’s priorities.

MCC Canada’s National Program Department supervises MCC programs in Eastern Canada through the work of a regional representative.

MCC Canada Mental Health and Disabilities Program

  • MCC CA
  • Corporate body
  • 1992-2006

Before the development of an MCC Canada program concerned with Mental Health or Disabilities, MCC worked with and advocated for the well-being of people with mental and physical disabilities through its Voluntary Service program. MCC Voluntary Service workers were placed in homes for children and adults with disabilities throughout Canada even before MCC Canada had been established.

MCC Canada developed a Handicap Concerns Program in 1983 and a Mental Health program in 1985. In 1992, the Handicap Concerns and Mental Health programs amalgamated to create the Mental Health and Disabilities program within MCC Canada’s National Program Department. The new program took on the mandates of both previous programs and continued the work of creating support groups, providing education, and advocating on behalf of individuals with disabilities and mental health concerns.

The program was restructured in 2001; a program coordinator was appointed to oversee a Mental Health and Disabilities Network and to collaborate with provincial MCC’s to carry out the work of the program. The network dissolved in 2006 when the position of Mental Health and Disabilities national program coordinator was not replaced.

MCC Canada Mental Health Program

  • MCC CA
  • Corporate body
  • 1986-1992

Before the development of an MCC Canada Program concerned with Mental Health or Disabilities, MCC worked with and advocated for the well-being of people with mental and physical disabilities through its Voluntary Service program.

In 1982, the Council of Moderators and Secretaries called for MCC to recognize mental health as a legitimate agenda for MCC. In response, MCC Canada appointed a Mental Health Advisory Committee in 1985. As a result of the work of the committee, MCC Canada established the Mental Health Program in 1986. The goal of the program was to build practical support and understanding for people with mental illness within Mennonite churches and to create a network of mental health professionals within these communities.

In 1992, the Mental Health program and MCC Canada’s Handicap Concerns program amalgamated to create the Mental Health and Disabilities program within MCC Canada’s National Program Department. The new program took on the mandates of both previous programs, continuing the work of both under one new entity.

MCC Canada Migration and Resettlement Program

  • MCC CA
  • Corporate body
  • 1979 -

MCC Canada’s Migration and Resettlement Program was established in 1979 in response to calls from Canadian Mennonite and Brethren in Christ congregations to provide ways to help resettle Southeast Asian refugees in Canada. MCC Canada negotiated a two-year agreement with the Canadian government to create the private refugee sponsorship program – the first organization to establish such an agreement. While MCC Canada had a coordinating role to play, most of the work of welcoming refugees was split between each provincial MCC and the Canadian government; congregations were responsible for meeting the refugees upon their arrival in Canada, helping them settle, and providing them with financial assistance for up to one year while the government paid for healthcare costs, language training, employment services, and interest free loans for transportation to Canada. The sponsorship program proved to be so successful that MCC Canada and the Canadian government agreed to renew the agreement after the initial two-year period.

The Migration and Resettlement Program reported to MCC Binational’s Coordinator of Overseas Services until 1995 when it became part of MCC Canada’s National Program Department. The program went through several name changes: Refugee Concerns (1981-1985, 1988-1997), Refugee Sponsorship/Resettlement (1986), Refugees and Immigration (1987), Refugee Assistance (1997-2014), and Migration and Resettlement (2014-). While carrying out its own program activities, MCC Canada’s Migration and Resettlement Program also works closely with provincial MCC refugee assistance programs across Canada.

MCC Canada National Program Department

  • MCC CA
  • Corporate body
  • 1981 -

A National Program Department under MCC Canada was not officially established until 1981. Before this time, all Canadian domestic programs reported directly to the MCC Executive office. Early programs under MCC Canada began in the 1960s when responsibility for the Summer Service and Voluntary Service Programs already in Canada was transferred from the MCC office in the U.S. and a Peace and Social Concerns Committee was formed. Between 1974 and 1980, initiatives by MCC Canada to establish domestic programs included the development of a Native Concerns portfolio (1974), the Ottawa Office (1975), the Offender Ministries Program (1976), the first SALT program in Canada (1977), a position to oversee Development Education (1975), the Kanadier Committee (1975), early Refugee and Immigration initiatives (1979), and the establishment of a Handicap Concerns office (1980).

By 1981, the growing number of Canadian domestic programs had become too extensive for the Executive Office to administer. This led to the restructuring of MCC Canada’s Executive Office and the creation of three new senior coordinator positions: Personnel and Administrative Services Coordinator, Overseas Program Coordinator, and Canadian Programs Coordinator. In 1981, the first Canadian Programs Coordinator was hired and a Women’s Concerns portfolio, Service Education program, Canadian Mental Health program, Employment Concerns portfolio, and AIDS task group were added to the list of Canadian programs under the new Canadian Programs Department. By 1990, the Canadian Programs Department was comprised of eight main programs: Voluntary Service, Peace and Social Concerns, Native Concerns, Women’s Concerns, Mental Health Program, Victim Offender Ministries, Handicap Concerns, and Employment Concerns.

In 1996, after a decade-long period of rapid growth in domestic programs, a proposal for the reorganization of MCC Canada’s National Program Department was made. The structure and content of the Department were reconfigured, and the department was renamed twice; it was called the Peace and Development Department until 1998 and then the Peace and Justice Department until the early 2000’s. The department’s function during this time was to deliver domestic programming in three areas: The Peace Office, the Justice Program (consisting of Native Issues, Economic Justice, Restorative Justice, and Refugee Assistance programs), and the Constituency Program (consisting of the Mental Health and Disabilities program and Women’s Concerns network). During this period of restructuring, responsibility for MCC Canada's domestic programs was decentralized and began to shift over to the provincial MCC offices.

During the 2000’s, the department was referred to as the Canadian Programs Department or the National Program Department (predominant 2004-2009), sometimes interchangeably. Eastern Canada programs were added to the department and many of the existing Canadian programs were restructured, combined, renamed, or discontinued.

In 2012, MCC Canada's National Program Department was moved under the larger “MCC Program” umbrella. The National Program Department works to represent MCC at a national level, networks and resources the provincial MCC's to carry out Indigenous Neighbours, Migration and Resettlement, Restorative Justice, and Low-German programming, and continues to be responsible for the delivery of programs in Eastern Canada.

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