HARRAH — It may not be the Three R’s — more like the Three M’s: mugs, muffins and music — but there will definitely be a back-to-school flair in this Lower Valley town on Jan. 26.
“Back to School Basics” is the theme of this year’s Mug ‘n Muffin, the annual mid-winter brunch for women at Harrah Grace Brethren Church. It’s free and open to all women.
Actually there are two brunches; the first runs from 9-11 a.m., and the second from 2-4 p.m.
“A couple of years ago, we switched to two (sessions) because we were having to turn people away,” said Diane Touhey, one of the organizers.
Mug ‘n Muffin can accommodate up to 120 women at each session. Last year, about 95 women attended each one.
That’s a big turnout for a small church, with a congregation of about 40, to organize, Touhey acknowledged. Everyone is grateful, she added, that the brunch has turned into such a success, drawing women from all over the Valley and beyond.
“This is something we can do for everyone, and all the people have fun,” noted Cherry Stach, who along with her sister, Tina Boyer, is heading up decorations for the event. “Each year it’s grown.”
The brunch is a way to minister to people in the community, Touhey added. It’s also designed to raise women’s spirits and spiritual awareness.
“It’s a great opportunity to show our unchurched friends, neighbors and coworkers how much fun Christian women really can be,” Touhey noted.
The event blends entertainment and education — surrounded by food.
This year’s speaker is Anne Schilperoort, longtime piano teacher and part-time instructor at Yakima Valley Community College. Her topic is “What God is Doing in My Life.”
Schilperoort will also accompany a trio of singers on the piano as part of the musical entertainment.
The Grace Brethren brunch was launched in 2004. After Touhey and friend Ann Glover attended a women’s retreat in 2003, they came back energized and wanted to spread a similar message of inspiration to more women.
So the concept of offering a brunch was born. That first year, the Grace Brethren women hosted three brunches but later pared the number to two a year. Finally, they settled on one big, annual event, always on the last Saturday in January. Through the years they’ve put on 16 brunches.
Members of the church pitch in to help with each brunch.
“The women of Grace give us lots of support,” Touhey pointed out. “We couldn’t do it without them.”
They also help with the food, focusing on finger goods, such as muffins, cookies, doughnuts, fruit and sandwiches.
Organizers take great pride in each year’s Mug ‘n Muffin decorations. Stach explained that organizers begin accruing objects to complement the brunch theme more than a year ahead. Because this one is school related, blackboards, old desks, a swing set and toys will be scattered around the church fellowship hall.
Boyer has dressed a mannequin to look like an old school marm, wearing a long skirt and lace blouse from the late 1800s. Peggy Poisel and Dora Gunnoe are decorating the dozen tables with old “Dick and Jane” readers and other old-fashioned school paraphernalia; colors are red and yellow to resemble a school bus, Poisel said.
The details and planning all reinforce the main focus: making Mug ‘n Muffin a rewarding experience for women, Touhey said.
“It’s an interesting and educational time, and we want it to be encouraging for women.”