This article was originially published in the Illinois Farmer Today.
OTTAWA, Ill. — Midwest farmers and church-goers have found a way to make harvest festivals, bike rides, auctions and good crop yields here raise money for projects that help people overseas fight hunger.
This year, the Growing Hope Globally project in Ottawa, Illinois, raised $12,500. The harvest celebration, held on a farm this fall, included the work of 28 church groups and community members to put on a family fun day. Activities included watching combines at work, playing in corn kernel sandboxes and taking part in a variety of rural activities.
“It’s like a family reunion,” said Gerry Lundeen, a member of the Globally Growing Hope board of directors.
At a pie auction that was part of the Ottawa fundraiser, some pies sold for as much as $5,000 for an organization that runs with mostly volunteers and small administration costs.
That money is combined with money raised by crop donations and other fundraisers. More than $1 million has been raised by a trio of Growing Hope groups in Ottawa, Earlville and Somonauk in the last 15 years.
It all makes Kevin Nelson smile because the Illinois agronomist has seen personally what that money provides in training and resources for people in countries like Nicaragua.
Nelson looks like Santa Claus when his eyes twinkle while talking about Marta, a Nicaraguan farmer he visited during trips in 2014 and 2017. He intends to visit again in 2019. Like Marta, many of the farmers in developing countries are women, Nelson said. They learn — and then model for the community — good farming practices, he said. Most of the people make less than a dollar a day.
“It was completely life changing,” he said of working with the farmers in Nicaragua.
The organization, founded in 1999, was originally known as Foods Resource Bank, but he said the group wasted too much time explaining what it was not.
“The new name more clearly reflects what we do,” he said.
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