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Harvest project expected to raise $34,000 for poor

October 31, 2006

MYERSVILLE, Md. - Much of the harvest is in and soon, three area churches hope to know how much reward they have reaped for a poor community in Africa.

About 120 members of the Grossnickle Church of the Brethren near Myersville, the Hagerstown Church of the Brethren and the Welty Church of the Brethren near Smithsburg gathered here Oct. 15 for a Harvest Festival celebration.

Last spring, farmer Donnie Grossnickle planted corn, wheat, hay and soybeans on 55 acres donated by Grossnickle members Patty and Jeff Hurwitz for a Growing Project.

Through it, like other such projects across the nation, area businesses and residents "bought" each of the acres to subsidize the cost of seeds, fertilizer, spray, tilling, planting and harvesting.

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So far, the corn, wheat and hay have been harvested, according to Patty Hurwitz, who chaired the project committee for the three churches. She said the soybeans will be harvested soon, and all the crops will be sold.

"The committee anticipates raising approximately $17,000 from the crop sale," Hurwitz said.

"This amount will be matched dollar for dollar by USAID, the government agency which oversees aid to developing countries, so the total amount the project will send is $34,000."

She said the money will be given the Foods Resource Bank, a national nonprofit Christian organization, to teach poor people in Bamba, Kenya, such skills as "how to grow better drought-tolerance crops." She said a philosophy of Foods Resource Bank is to help in the manner of the saying: "'Don't just give me a fish, teach me how to fish so I can keep doing it myself.'"

The Bamba region of southeast Kenya "is an extremely poor area, just 30 miles inland from the Indian Ocean, where drought conditions exist 10 months of the year," Hurwitz said. "Wells cannot be dug because the water is too salty; women walk six miles to fetch a pail of water for household use."

She said the goal will be to build large ponds for irrigation and household use, to teach the people how to grow drought-resistant crops, as well as to teach soil and water conservation techniques, and improved breeds of animals and animal husbandry practices.

The recent Harvest Festival celebrated the success of the churches' year-long project.

There were Kenyan and American foods, and Kenyan crafts and games as well as scarecrow making, bobbing for apples and a display of Kenyan artifacts.

There was also a Service of Thanksgiving "for the bountiful crop and the generosity of those who supported the project," Hurwitz said.

Businesses which gave support included Gladhill Tractor Mart in Jefferson, Md., and the John Deere Foundation, and illustrator Steve Burdette.

Among those present was Marv Baldwin, president of Foods Resource Bank.

Hurwitz said Baldwin and a Kenyan native, who oversees one of the Kenyan programs, will be at Grossnickle Church of the Brethren at noon Nov. 4 for an informal luncheon and discussion of the program. She said area residents are invited to attend.

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