Several in Hillsboro work together to provide new billboards for KMRS

Painters: Bryant Dalke, Tanner Plett, Ella Suderman (not Pictured), Logo Design Artist: Michael Klaassen, KMRS Board Members: Hank Wiebe, Ron Bartel, Charlene Driggers. Several groups worked together to produce hand-painted billboard signs for the Kanas Mennonite Relief sale coming up on April 14 and 15.
Hillsboro High School’s Tanner Plett works on painting one of three billboards that will be placed around Hutchinson to promote the KMRS.
Hillsboro High School’s Bryant Dalke works on painting one of three billboards that will be placed around Hutchinson to promote the KMRS.
Hillsboro High School’s Ella Suderman works on painting one of three billboards that will be placed around Hutchinson to promote the KMRS.

Just as many people come together every year to pull off a successful Kansas Mennonite Relief Sale (KMRS), several people came together to design new billboard signs for the sale.

Three new billboards have been placed in various places around Hutchinson on K-51, K-14 and Highway 96. The previous signs had been put out for a long time.

The sale has been in existence for 55 years. KMRS is a benevolent organization that exists solely to raise money for the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) and its humanitarian tasks that it takes on around the world including Syria and Ukraine and Africa and 40 plus other countries around the world.

“We have a rich history in Hillsboro—the first KMRS was held at the Marion County Fairgrounds in Hillsboro,” said Robb.

Last fall a KMRS board member suggested that it was time for the signs to be upgraded and the board was also looking to create a logo for the sale that would separate them from the MCC sale. They decided to hold a contest for someone to create a logo that would be incorporated into the new signs.

“We didn’t just want to hire someone to paint the signs, but we wanted the design element in it,” said KMRS Board Chairman Jim Robb.

Robb had taught in Hillsboro for 17 years at Hillsboro High School and current Art Teacher Dustin Dalke was one of his students. Dalke later became a colleague when he returned to HHS to teach while Robb was still teaching there.

“I thought ‘why not see if Dustin would be interested in having one of his classes work on this,” said Robb.

Dalke jumped at the opportunity and so did Principal Weinbrenner who felt like it would be a great real-world experience for the students.

Students Bryan Dalke, Tanner Plett and Ella Suderman, all seniors, spent the first part of the year doing computer mock-ups not knowing what the logo looked like yet. Once the logo was finished, they added the logo to the design and altered the signs to fit the logo. The KMRS board approved the sign designs and the students quickly got them all finished up so they could be ready to go up for display this week.

The students enjoyed the experience.

“I really enjoyed working on this project especially with my classmates. The project allowed us to apply our skills to a real-world situation. It was challenging but I’m glad we could help out the KMRS,” said Bryant Dalke.

Suderman added, “It was fun to work on it and help see their vision through.”

Plett jumped in on the project at semester, “I mainly just helped paint it. It was still really cool to be able to help them out and to be a part of their project.”

Dustin Dalke enjoyed working with his students on the project.

He said, “This was a good project for these seniors. From start to finish, this project presented real-world applications. Sign painting is an old art that’s been replaced by easier means, vinyl and printing predominantly. I’m proud of the design they created and the time they spent delicately painting.”

As for the logo, Robb reached out to another former student, Michael Klaassen at Tabor College to see if he could spread the word about the contest for the logo with students from local Mennonite colleges including Tabor, Hesston College and Bethel College.

“I assumed when Jim called that only students were allowed to participate. I had a couple of ideas that floated in my head and ended up sketching them out for fun. It wasn’t until I skimmed their website on a whim and realized I had misunderstood,” said Klaassen.

Realizing that he could apply for the contest as well, Klaassen got to work.

Klaassen grew up attending the sale with his mom and grandma and had many fond memories of full stomachs and full hearts.

“My early understanding of ‘The Sale’ was seeing it as a verenika eating contest, competing with a friend to see how many we could eat, then it became about introducing friends from college to a cultural celebration which turned into returning as a young adult that looks forward to the opportunity to see family and friends each year while we support excellent organization that helped those in need around the world,” said Klaassen.

Klaassen said that being exposed to the sale and being a part of the Mennonite community, the first two things that came to his mind were quilts and farming. He had two grandmas that were avid quilters which gave me the idea to look for quilt patterns that reflected the look of wheat.

He went on to explain that quilts have been an integral and prominent part of the sale. Hundreds of pieces are sacrificially worked on throughout each year by people all over and donated to raise serious money at the quilt auction.

“The art, service and generosity of the quilt auction are impressive,” Klaassen said. “Mennonites have also been known to bring the Turkey Red wheat to the midwest. The wheat imagery acknowledges the historic tradition of farming, the hard work and labor of those and their generosity as well as the delicious food that can be made by it.”

Klaassen said from there it just fell into place.

“My initial sketches didn’t look too different from the final pieces. I credit God for inspiring and equipping me to produce this piece. I have designed a number of logos for different things and this was the first time that it made sense what to do from the beginning.”

Klaassen also enjoyed working with Dalke and his students on it.

“Locally it has been such a cool process of intergenerational work for a common goal. People and relationships are important. Jim Robb was my government teacher and Dustin Dalke taught me art. I have gotten to know the students in the youth group at church. And somehow we all worked together to use our gifts of leading, designing, teaching, artistry and service to make a difference. I love it,” he said. “To be honest, they spent more time on crafting, adapting and finishing the signs than I spent on the logo. Props to them for making it look good and sticking with a not-so-simple project. Thank you, Tanner, Bryant and Ella.”

Klaassen admitted that having his design chosen as the face of the organization has been humbling.

He said, “I hope it can help tell the story of how each of us can make a difference with things as simple as quilts and wheat. Creators are often the most critical of our own work and it will be weird to see it on display. The best part of this project has been getting to meet and work with new and different people. I got the privilege to attend one of the monthly meetings of the sale committee. To say that each of the people who are a part of the sale is committed is an understatement. These people are my heroes—they shed blood, sweat and tears to put on an incredible sale that helps people all over the world. To be a small part of what they do is a privilege.”

The organization continues to grow each year.

“Last year we were able to donate to MMC largely because of what was going on in Ukraine and the history of many people in Marion, Harvey and McPherson counties having ancestors come from Ukraine. We were able to give over $700,000 to MCC just last year,” said Robb.

The sale starts at 4 p.m. on Friday, April 14 and will be over mid-afternoon on Saturday, April 15. The sale has food, quilts, a general auction and a silent auction, crafts, plants and more.

“It’s a coming together of people for a common cause. It’s people coming together to do what they do for Jesus and his great commission. We put everything else aside,” said Robb.

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