By Ron Hayes
You’ve probably found the catalog in your mailbox around this time of year.
Amid the booklets for gourmet cheese baskets, fruitcakes and holiday trinkets comes “The Most Important Gift Catalog In The World, Special 2015 Holiday Edition.”
And there on the cover is a photo of that most important gift.
The catalog is from Heifer International, which wants you to buy a young farm animal.
A sheep, goat or pig for $120. A llama for $150. A water buffalo for $250. A heifer for $500.
And the organization wants you to buy it for someone else.
“Heifer International is just a wonderful charity,” says Harold “Doc” Burton, who crossed the ocean with its volunteers, delivering farm animals to post-World War II Europe. “They’re a charity of the Church of the Brethren. I’m not a member of the church, but I’m closely involved with what they’re doing.”
Established in America in 1723, the Brethren is one of the three traditional “peace churches,” along with the Quakers and Mennonites.
In 1938, a church relief worker named Dan West was providing powdered milk to women and children battered by the Spanish Civil War when inspiration struck.
Instead of powdered milk, why not send cows? Or better yet, why not send a pregnant cow, so each recipient could pass the calf on to a neighbor.
Two good deeds for the price of one.
Photo courtesy Brethren Historical Library and Archive
In 1944, war in Europe forced Heifers for Relief to send its first shipment of 17 heifers to Puerto Rico.
At war’s end, the charity joined with the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration to bring livestock to Europe. And the effort has grown ever since.
According to its most recent report, Heifer International has helped more than 22 million families in 125 countries in its 70 years.
In 2008, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gave the charity a $42.5 million grant to help farmers in East Africa, and added an additional $8.2 million four years later.
And it isn’t just about heifers anymore. Gifts of chicks, rabbits, ducks and honeybees are also available.
“The Church of the Brethren did not and does not believe in war,” says Burton. “They believe in peace, and any time something comes up where they can help mankind, they do it.
“It’s just a way of life with them.”
For more information, visit www.heifer.org.