Garden Party in Eastmoreland raises funds, brandishes goats

by: Elizabeth Ussher Groff, Lucia Atkinson, a senior at the Shelton School of Music at Rice University, donated her time to benefit Heifer International by performing at Bonner’s backyard Garden Party.

Two Pygmy goats were tethered at the sidewalk in Eastmoreland.

Party-goers were wearing creative homemade hats.

Beautiful violin music was being played in a verdant backyard garden.

Who says a fundraiser cannot also be a 'fun raiser', and a chance for socializing and enjoyment?

Gina Bonner, an Eastmoreland resident of over thirty years, decided to combine a hat-making contest and old-fashioned garden party with a chance to raise money for her favorite charity organization, Heifer International.

Ten years ago Bonner began receiving Heifer International catalogs in the mail. 'I am the catalog doyenne, and while sifting through a stack, wondering why anyone would send me a catalog about wool products which I am allergic to, when I came across the one called 'The Most Important Gift Catalog in the World', with an adorable African boy holding a chicken. I opened it and read the Heifer International catalog from start to finish,' remembers Bonner.

Heifer International is known to use only a small percentage of the funds it raises for administrative overhead; it provides sheep, goats, honeybees, pigs, chicks, llamas, cows, ducks, geese, and even water buffalo to families in communities around the world. Today, Bonner sponsors an animal or two each year, and encourages friends and neighbors to do the same.

Bonner is impressed by the way the charity works. 'Heifer teaches the families how to care for their animals and barter with their neighbors. The community of animals widens because a family receiving instruction and the gift of an animal or two promises to offer animal offspring to other families, so the human-animal bond grows, especially between the animal and child.'

Heifer International began over sixty years ago, when American farmer Dan West, doing relief work in Spain during the Spanish Civil War, became frustrated with trying to decide how to allocate a very limited amount of food aid. After returning to the U.S., he founded Heifers For Relief, an organization dedicated to providing permanent freedom from hunger by giving families livestock, and training for self-sufficiency. The organization was based on the philosophy: 'Give a man a fish; you have fed him for a day. Teach a man to fish; you have fed him for a lifetime.'

In 1944 the first group of seventeen heifers was shipped from Pennsylvania to Puerto Rico. Each animal was intended to be an ongoing source of food, offspring, and fertilizer. By requiring that families receive education in animal husbandry, and agree to donate any female offspring to another family, West envisioned a single gift multiplying far beyond the original investment.

This mission is carried out today in 125 countries, as well as 38 states in the United States. Individuals, church groups, classrooms, even entire schools donate in multiples of $10 shares. 'Spare change from families put into a Heifer Jar in a classroom can add up to $20, which can purchase a chicken. A heifer costs $500, or fifty shares, which we raised that fun afternoon at the garden party!' says Bonner. The listed prices for animals in the catalog include the cost of veterinary care, transport to the village, and family training in animal husbandry, sustainable agriculture techniques, and business practices.

Beyond simply funding Heifer International, Bonner suggests that people organize potlucks, garden parties or ice cream socials as a way to raise funds for their favorite organizations, or those in need. In other words, have fun while fundraising.

But, for information about Heifer International, you're invited to call 1-800/698-2511, or visit the Internet website: