Engaging children, parents, grandparents and even great-grandparents in Lent activities is a piece of cake for members of First Congregational Church in Westfield, N.J. For six weeks each year the church community focuses on ending hunger and poverty through Heifer International programs such as “Fill the Ark” and “Read to Feed.” The series ends with a cake auction.
“For more than three decades our church has contributed to Heifer International, raising a total of $41,262 since 1978,” said Alida Woods, church school superintendent. “The idea of giving to programs that help people help themselves is a wonderful concept and it has touched our hearts.”
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 families agree to give the first offspring of their donated animal to another needy family.
First Congregation Church leaders have found that February, March and April are good months to engage members in Heifer projects. “During the season of Lent, members are not overwhelmingly busy and have recovered from the holidays,” said Laura Berzofsky, church member and Heifer volunteer. “The coming of spring creates a positive energy, a spirit of fresh new beginnings. Heifer’s animals, and the prosperity they bring, have powerful symbolic resonance.”
For the spring effort, church leaders add Heifer stories to the “Moment for Children” during worship. They also hand out Fill The Ark calendars and banks, and Read To Feed resources for home projects. The cake auction, planned for Palm Sunday this year, includes homemade cakes in the shapes of Heifer animals. Winners are drawn from an auction jar for each cake.
“Heifer International has been a very important part of our church,” said Alida. “It exemplifies what we believe in; helping others.”
“Research tells us that an estimated 805 million people in the world suffer from hunger,” says 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 First Congregational is critical to help reach our goal of assisting two million families annually.”
Passing on the Gift® has worked for donors as well as recipients. One church member who visited a Heifer ranch as a teen is now a mother and teaches in the Sunday School. “It’s an example of how Heifer succeeds. One cow, and one person leads to a ripple effect, expanding the blessings in a wider circle,” said Laura.
Information about Heifer International programs and ordering resources is available online. In addition to, 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).