Thrift Shopper for Peace

(reuse refresh rethink repeat)

Interview with Angelika Dawson nee Wiebe

Emmanuel Mennonite Church, Abbotsford, BC
Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2011

How did you come to have an interest in Thrift?

The words “second-hand” have been a part of my vocabulary for as long as I can remember. I grew up with hand-me-downs and things my mom bought at the local Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Thrift Shop. When I began earning my own money, it was just natural that I would shop there as well. I still have the very first item I bought with my own money over 25 years ago: an over-sized, man’s sweater.

It was 1979, a couple years after the release of the movie Annie Hall, I was 14 and all my friends were wearing men’s clothes: suit jackets, shirts and ties. I picked up this sweater for a dollar and when I wore it to school the next day I was the envy of them all.

I also made several discoveries. Not only could I be the height of current fashion without spending a fortune, I could also be unique. When my friends asked where I got the sweater, ready to go out and get theirs, it was with smug satisfaction that I said ‘sorry, I got this at MCC, it was the only one there!’

Can you tell me a bit about the work you do for MCC?

I work as a writer in the Communications Department for MCC in British Columbia. (For those who don’t know MCC, we are the relief, development and peace agency of the Mennonite Churches in North America).  I communicate with constituency, the public and with media, writing press releases, stories for print and web, newsletters, bulletin announcements for churches, letters and more. My favourite part of my work is meeting people who do interesting work for MCC (like Voluntary Service Workers in other countries or thrift shop volunteers here at home). I love interviewing people, writing their stories and then making them famous.

How do you see your faith playing a role in the work that you have chosen?

First of all, I’m grateful to God for providing me with an avenue to use the gift that he’s given me. I have a gift with words/writing/language/listening but it’s not always a gift that enables you to make a living. So I’m doubly grateful that I am able to earn a living by writing and to do it for an organization like MCC that I love so much, makes it feel more like joy than like work.

Secondly, I take the mission and value statements of MCC very seriously: all the work we do, we do in the Name of Christ. So all of my writing, interviewing, communicating is done in the Name of Christ. When I can share with the public/media how MCC is making a difference in the lives of those in need all around the world, then I am sharing that work from my faith perspective. I can also say that God has taught me a great deal from the people we work with here locally and overseas. I’ve had the very great privilege of travelling twice with MCC: once to Ukraine and once to Laos/Cambodia. Meeting with teachers in Ukraine and farmers and health care workers in Laos/Cambodia was so inspiring to me. It was definitely a faith –growing experience for me. But when I meet people here at home too – like people who have HIV/AIDS and are living well with this disease, in part because they are encouraged and cared for through an MCC support group… well that’s a faith-growing experience for me too. 

What are some of your challenges?

I assume you mean in my work. After doing this for 14 years, the challenge is to keep it fresh and not fall into ruts/routines. The other challenge is the constant demands to do more and more with the time I’m given. I job share with a graphic designer, so we share a 1.5 position, neither of us working full time… at least, neither of us being paid full time. J So it means having to work smarter, having to work efficiently, recognizing that you do this for the love of the work and the organization, not the money. 

What are the highlights?

I’ve mentioned some of them above. Another highlight for me is the MCC Festival in Abbotsford each year – in particular, the enthusiastic way in which youth and young adults respond to this event. It is such a joyful, multi-generational celebration that even though it’s a truckload of work to prepare for it, it’s so worth it when it happens and you come away from the weekend having had a blast and raising $700,000 for people in need in the process. Giving was never so much fun!

Anything else you’d like to add?

I think one of the things I’d like to add is that you really never do know where the Lord will lead you. I’ve done a number of jobs in my life: youth worker, correspondent for Canadian Mennonite magazine, Music Coordinator for my church, and this job at MCC. I have a BA in English Lit, which really only qualifies me to read books. J I am not uniquely qualified to do anything I’ve ever been paid to do – BUT I always knew I could do the work I applied for and I was fortunate enough that every organization that ever took a chance on me was willing to equip me while I was doing the work. I’ve taken lots of work-specific courses that have helped me be better at what I do. I think you just have to be confident in the gifts God has given you and trust that you will find ways to use those. If someone had told me when I graduated from high school that I’d be working in the communications field for MCC, I probably would have laughed… and yet, here I am!

You can read more about her shopping adventures by visiting her blog site at