Heifer Projects Bring Washington Farming Community Together


Any Sunday during the season of Lent — March 4 through April 19, 2014 — you will find members of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Enumclaw, Wash., standing outside on church grounds. They’re trying to guess the weight of pigs, the age of heifers and the correct number of chicken eggs in a basket. This is serious business for the farming community.

“For $1 a guess, our members are helping to change the world in partnership with Heifer International,” said Mathew Weisbeck, pastor associate. “Through the animals, we share something with people far away that we actually know something about right here and have a direct connection with.”

The City of Enumclaw is known as the “gateway” to the north entrances of Mount Rainier National Park in western Washington. Many of the 700 church families farm or raise horses. They take great pride in applying their knowledge and skills to a worthy cause.

Since 2000, church members have raised more than $45,000 through Heifer International projects.

“We started with the children raising enough money for an animal every year,” said Weisbeck. “In 2006, we set a churchwide goal to raise enough money for the Fill the Ark program, a total of $5,000. We were thrilled when we were able to fill two arks in 2007.” Every year since, the congregation has either met or exceeded its fundraising goal.

Heifer International is a global, nonprofit leader of sustainable agricultural development for smallholder farmers. Family-oriented, community-based development models remain at the core of Heifer’s programs, along with the Passing on the Gift® process, where recipient families agree to give the first offspring of their donated animal to another needy family.

“The biggest value for this community is the sense of empowerment in making a difference,” said Weisbeck.

“Research tells us that an estimated 805 million people in the world suffer from hunger,” said Pat Keay, national community engagement director for Heifer International. “We will need to double food production over the next two to three decades to keep up with worldwide demand. Support from churches like Sacred Heart Catholic Church is critical to help reach our goal of assisting two million families annually.”

The annual Heifer events have extended beyond the church to include students from the local high school Future Farmers of America club. The students bring their animals and answer questions from church members. Correctly guessing the ages of the heifers has become a coveted status.

“None of the dairy farmers (has) been successful at guessing the heifers’ age to date, but it’s been a lot of fun watching them try,” said Weisbeck.

For information about Heifer International programs or to order resources, visit www.heifer.org. In addition to the online resources, printed resources are available by calling 1-888-5-HUNGER (548-6437).

About Heifer International:

Heifer International’s mission is to end hunger and poverty while caring for the Earth. For 70 years, Heifer International has provided livestock and environmentally sound agricultural training to improve the lives of those who struggle daily for reliable sources of food and income. Heifer is currently working in more than 30 countries, including the United States, to help families and communities become more self-reliant. For more information, visit www.heifer.org, read our blog, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or call 1-888-5HUNGER (888-548-6437).