Sunday, June 16, 2024

Local Group Celebrates 25 Years

25 years! That’s how long the Bighead River Foodgrains growing project has been working in the Meaford area to raise funds for feeding hungry people around the world through Canadian Foodgrains Bank.

To celebrate this milestone, a special 25th year anniversary community dinner is being planned.

Date: Friday, November 18

Location: Meaford and St. Vincent Community Centre

Doors Open: 5:30 p.m.

Dinner: 6:30 p.m.

Tickets: $25. Advance only from committee members or call Norma McCauley 519-377-8428

Volunteers coordinated through Christ Church Anglican will be preparing a ham and turkey dinner with mashed potatoes, gravy, mixed vegetables, coleslaw, tea and coffee. Apple crisp and ice cream will be served for dessert.

The committee is especially pleased to announce that Andy Harrington, Executive Director of Canadian Foodgrains Bank, will be joining the festivities as the guest speaker for the evening. Andy visited Ethiopia earlier this year and will be sharing information about his experiences there and the current world hunger crisis.

The event will also include musical entertainment by River and Rock and the municipality will be operating a cash bar.

For Henry Reinders, one of the original members and current chair and treasurer of the Bighead River growing project, it’s been a mission of service, combining his love of farming with his Christian faith. “I’ve been blessed to have a very successful farming career”, said Reinders, “and this is my way of sharing those blessings with others.”

Others express similar sentiments. Norma McCauley speaks of the love and privileges of her life and having the God-given opportunity every day to pay it forward. John Howard says the dedication and commitment of committee members and the reward of knowing this work is responding positively to addressing world hunger keeps him involved.

From its humble beginnings in 1997 when it raised a few thousand dollars from a couple of small fields of barley grown on the outskirts of Meaford, the Bighead River project has grown to raising over $50,000 in each of the last couple of years. At its peak, the project was planting and harvesting 42 acres of crop on donated land. Even today, it still has 8 acres of corn and 7 acres of hay donated. Reinders himself donates a portion of all his hay sales to the project.

Over its 25 years of operation, the project has raised $639,000. “Community support has been a huge part of this,” said Reinders.

Past events such as the Mervin Lush Memorial Antique Tractor Show and Harvest Celebration generated great community support and were a significant part of the fundraising efforts while also providing an opportunity for visitors to learn more about agriculture.

More recently, Wes Sparling has been instrumental in guiding the growth of funds raised through recycling of bottles and cans. Using barrels placed around town, and talking to friends and neighbours, Sparling has developed a network of people who set out pop and beer cans and liquor bottles for him to collect. “During the summer months, I’m making up to three visits a week to the Beer Store returning beer cans and liquor bottles,” said Sparling. “It all adds up.” Indeed, it does add up as the project has raised over $5,000 through recycled cans and bottles this year.

The pop cans are turned over to committee members John Howard and Leonard Smith, who crush the cans which are then set aside for delivery to a recycling yard.

Recycling scrap metal is another area that has grown for this group. Through the generosity of Chantico Fireplaces, the project has raised $7,700 this year. “Chantico have been great,” said Reinders. “Not only do they donate their scrap metal to us, but they also allow us the use of their trailer to haul it away and to gather up metal from other sources.”

The fundraising doesn’t stop there! September was a busy time for the group as they picked pears from several donated trees and distributed them around town in return for a donation. Then, later in the month they hosted a refreshment booth at the Scarecrow Family Festival serving coffee, hot chocolate, tea, and popcorn.

October brought the toonie tree drive, where small wooden cut-outs in the shape of a tree and fitted with plastic tubes are placed on tabletops in many local churches for the purpose of collecting loonies and toonies. Reinders noted that bills are also stuffed into the tubes, and they were pleasantly surprised to find ten $100 bills rolled into one tube a couple of years ago.

To mark this celebratory year, the group has already had a special spring concert featuring the Shoreline Chorus. Their Back to Broadway show raised $2,100. This was followed by a World Food Day concert on October 16 featuring Luke Langman of Elmvale, which raised another $1,500.

The November 18 dinner will cap off a very special year. Please accept this as your personal invitation to join the members of the Bighead River growing project in their celebration of 25 years of service to others around the world.


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