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Extended family’s gift shows gratitude for help in exploring their history

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NNORTH NEWTON, KAN. – An extended family’s interest in their history has led to a gift of almost $3,000 to Bethel College’s Mennonite Library and Archives.

Tabor College’s Center for Mennonite Brethren Studies in Hillsboro also benefited from the family’s financial gratitude.

For almost 20 years, the Johann Ediger extended family descendants met for triennial reunions, starting in 1994 in Henderson, Neb. Following the 2003 reunion in North Newton, however, interest in the larger reunions began to wane, says Harold Franz of Wichita.

During the years of the Ediger reunions, the planning committees were required to pay deposits to reserve the reunion facilities, with a special fund set up for this purpose, Franz says. A reunion had been intended for 2006 but did not take place, leaving a total in the “deposit fund” of $4,689.

“Since then, we have put this money on interest and personally paid the income tax on the gain,” Franz says. As of Sept. 11, 2010, there was a total of $5,386 accumulated in the fund.

“During the past few years, we have visited with numerous Ediger relatives as to what should be done with these funds,” Franz says. “The latest consensus [from] a few of the last functioning committee members was that we donate 50 percent, or $2,693, to the Mennonite Library and Archives at Bethel College and 50 percent to the Center for Mennonite Brethren Studies at Tabor College. During these financially tight budget years, this would be most welcome.”

Harold and Eleanor Franz, along with Elroy and Loretta Wiens, Goessel, who were also members of the reunion planning committee, visited the MLA Sept. 16 to present the check to John Thiesen, archivist and co-director of libraries.

“We’re very grateful for this unexpected gift,” Thiesen says. “We will be planning a special project to help make our family history resources more available, and to further our overall purpose of helping answer visitors’ questions about the Mennonite past.”

The Mennonite Library and Archives at Bethel College works to collect, preserve and make available personal papers, documents, periodicals, books and other media related to Mennonite studies. It also serves as the official archives of Bethel College and one of two official archives for Mennonite Church USA, under the supervision of the Historical Committee of Mennonite Church USA.

Bethel College is the only private, liberal arts college in Kansas listed in the 2010-11 analysis of top colleges and universities in the United States and is in the first tier in its category in the U.S. News & World Report annual ranking of “America’s Top Colleges” for 2011. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see

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