Mennonite Central Committee has announced that it will soon be closing the Mennonitische Post bookstore in downtown Winkler and Steinbach.

Laura Kalmar is the Director of Marketing and Communications at MCC Canada. She says the move is effective March 31, 2024.

Kalmar explains that the Mennonitische Post book ministry has been part of MCC's education work since the early 1980s. It has promoted literacy and learning by selling and shipping books, Bibles and other reading materials to Low German-speaking communities in Canada, the United States and South and Central America. Kalmar notes the Low German Bible was first printed in 2003 and since then they have sold thousands of copies. 

Kalmar says over the last number of years, the book sales' customer base has changed, serving fewer people with no other access to books. 

"The ministry was set up to serve those primarily in Low German communities with no other access to books," notes Kalmar. "In that time, we have shipped books to colonies across North America, down in South and Central America, primarily places like Paraguay and Mexico."

As well, she notes retail downturns have hit the Post's brick-and-mortar stores, making the current sales model unsustainable. Kalmar says like many other retail outlets, costs are rising while sales are dropping. 

The closure will also signal the end of book orders and shipping to locations across North America, something they have been doing since the early 1980s.

Though their two bookstores are closing, Kalmar says this certainly does not mark the end of their publications. Die Mennonitische Post is a newspaper printed and distributed biweekly, while Das Blatt is a magazine for children and teachers that is distributed monthly. Both of those will continue as usual. 

Kalmar says the closure of these two stores will mean that five roles with MCC will be discontinued. Those roles include the Office Manager, Assistant Office Manager, bookstore associate and salesclerk in Steinbach as well as the Store Manager in Winkler.

"We recognize the changes bring loss and grief to a number of these valued staff," adds Kalmar. "And so, in that time MCC strives to treat all employees fairly and generously during the transition."

According to Kalmar, they are looking at creating a plan for what to do with the inventory after March 31st. She expects some of it will be discounted, while other inventory will be shipped to Low German communities. 

Though considered a sad announcement by MCC, Kalmar says it is also a celebration of decades of impact and success. She notes over the last couple of weeks they have been hearing so many stories of how the book ministry has impacted Low German communities across North and South and Central America. 

"It's helped people read," she says. "We're hearing from people like women and children who had no other access to literature, who just were incredibly impacted and grateful for that. And so, we're listening to those stories, we're recognizing that it's just had a huge impact."

Kalmar says they are also grateful for the incredible group of volunteers that have worked in their stores over the years. 

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