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Nevada church gives livestock to faraway families

Nick Beaton holds a sheep he brought to Yerington (Nev.) United Methodist Church for a Heifer International educational and fundraising event. UMNS photos by Reed Galin.

By Reed Galin*
July 11, 2007 | YERINGTON, Nev. (UMNS)


Event organizer Linda Ingold watches over the goat-petting area.

Nick Beaton, 13, crouches with his arms around the neck of a sheep. He is sweating under the Nevada sun.

"I think I do have a connection with people in Africa even though they’re on the other side of the world," he says, "because I know how useful animals can be. They feed families and stuff."

Nick has brought some of his own sheep and goats to Yerington United Methodist Church, where they are gathered on the lawn in temporary pens for children to pet and feed. It's all part of a church fundraiser for Heifer International, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending poverty and world hunger through self-reliance and sustainability.

Curious youngsters surround caged chickens and rabbits as the children's parents peruse leaflets and fact sheets about Heifer International. The Little Rock, Ark.-based group distributes animals to poor regions of the world where a cow, goat or camel can make a huge difference.

"Twenty dollars buy a flock of chickens," a volunteer explains. "Give people live chickens, and they have eggs to eat and sell for years, instead of one meal."


A flock of chickens can be purchased for $20 and will provide an impoverished family with eggs to eat and sell for years.

"Thirty dollars buy a share of a llama, or water buffalo, or pig."

Standing at the donation table, Edna Bickel hopes someday her finances will allow her to pay $500 to give a whole cow. But for now, she hands over a few $20 bills, adding that her grandchildren really don’t need more small cash gifts from their grandma.

Bickel likes how Heifer International teaches families how to care for their animals and how to handle money. The organization also requires receiving families to give their animal’s offspring to others.

"It’s a gift that keeps giving," says Bickel.


In Nick’s animal pen, a half dozen kids try to coax a light brown calf to drink from an industrial-sized baby bottle. Nick tells them why he wanted to get involved in his church's Heifer International fundraiser, which will help families in Africa. "I know it’s hard there because we learned about it in school," he says. "AIDS kills a lot of people. They don’t have a lot of food and they die of starvation, thirst, all that kind of stuff."

Located in a high desert community about 80 miles southeast of Reno, Yerington has its own problems. The main street has many empty storefronts, and some folks barely have enough income to take care of their own families. But the sign at the front door of the church beckons a faith-based approach to a sagging economy: "Try these four letter words: love, help, give, care."


A girl pets a calf as her family learns about the work of Heifer International.

As he flips burgers in the shade behind the church, church member George Mollart observes that this cookout would be a banquet for people who will receive the animals from Heifer International. "I think that speaks for itself that in our leisure time we can come here and do something for someone else in their desperate time," he says.

It’s hot on this day — mid-90’s. The dry landscape around Yerington is sparsely populated and there are few trees. Event organizer Linda Ingold suggests this land is not unlike some places in the world where Heifer International is at work.

The church has asked that money raised at the Yerington fundraiser be earmarked for a community of single women with children in Zambia. None of the 50 active members of Ingold's congregation has ever even been to Africa, but they now have a connection with the women.

"It’s a small world now," Ingold says. "When we read about the project, you kind of get a vision. We could be way off in our visions of what they’re like or what’s happening. But I think they’ve had a pretty rough life, and we would like to help them out any way we can.

"Now they’ll have milk from new goats, and they can drink it; they can make food with it and sell it. All of a sudden they may be making $20 a month when they’ve never seen that much in their whole life."

*Galin is a freelance producer based in Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Fran Coode Walsh, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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