Southern Pennsylvania MEDA hub has a long tradition of service

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This is the second in a series of stories about MEDA hubs (formerly chapters) across North America. The hubs, more than a dozen volunteer-led groups, organize events and activities to build awareness about MEDA’s work creating business solutions to poverty, to network and to hear people share stories about faith, work and entrepreneurship as a calling.

The Delaware Valley hub pre-dates MEDA’s existence by seven years.

The group had its beginnings in 1946, as the Clayton Kratz Fellowship.

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Lucy Brubaker photo by Ed Brubaker

Kratz, who grew up in Blooming Glen, Pennsylvania, was a relief worker for Mennonite Central Committee. He was working in a program to help Mennonite in south Russia in 1920, when he was arrested by the Communist army, and was never heard from again.

The Kratz Fellowship formed in 1946 to support businesspeople in southern Pennsylvania. It met monthly, giving loans to people who wanted to start a business or attend college.

In 1987, it became a MEDA chapter. By 2001, group leadership wanted to provide clarity about its mission and strengthen ties with MEDA, so it changed its name to Delaware Valley.

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Delaware valley hub board member James Sankan, his wife Natilya and children Sitoya and Eileen took part in a walkathon for MEDA last summer. Photo by Lucy Brubaker

Pre-pandemic, the hub held “third Thursday” breakfast meetings, nine months a year, from 6:30 to 7:30 am, at the Franconia Café in Souderton, said current chair Lucy Brubaker. The meetings, which average 20-25 participants, feature a businessperson discussing their faith in the marketplace, plus a “MEDA moment” update.

The group has also done one or two major fundraisers each year. Since the last breakfast meeting in February 2020, the hub held a summer walkathon to raise funds for MEDA.

It is also planning for future events, including a May 2021 virtual panel as part of the Faith and Work in the Pandemic series.

On October 18, Delaware Valley will host an evening to remember Clayton Kratz, with a goal of raising $25,000 to support work in the Ukraine.

The fundraiser, to be held at the restored Broad Street Theatre, will include a film highlighting Kratz’s life, as well as storytelling by John Sharp (whose son Michael, an MCC volunteer and United Nations contract employee, was killed in 2017 while investigating armed conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo.)

Delaware Valley wants to make the October event and its other fundraisers more informal and family-friendly than the traditional sit-down banquets of the past, Brubaker said. “Our goal as a hub is to attract the next generation of MEDA supporters.”

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A third Thursday breakfast gathering

The group has organized buses to MEDA conventions, realizing that in-person events help to connect people to MEDA’s work, she said.

Brubaker has attended MEDA conventions over the past decade. Joining a learning tour to Ethiopia in 2014 “was probably the event that really cemented my understanding of how MEDA works,’’ she said, particularly witnessing the complete value chain supporting weavers and rice producers.

Other members of the hub’s board include Becky Bergey, Jeff Hackman, Joanne Speigle, Ben Weaver, James Sankan and Steve Schwendy. People who are not on the board have organized parallel efforts to specific projects, including night markets, and fundraising efforts in support of MEDA’s internship program, Brubaker said.

Support for MEDA interns is a newer effort. For years, the group provided scholarships to students studying in the development field, until it became difficult to find applicants.

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