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Growing Hope Globally holds national Summer Celebration in Conrad

TR photos by Chuck Friend Crowd shots during the walking taco kickoff supper. At least 13 states were represented in the crowd.

CONRAD — Iowa farmers who are part of Growing Hope Globally celebrated the group’s 20th anniversary with volunteers from across the U.S. at its National Summer Celebration held July 26-27 at BCLUW High School in Conrad.

Max Finberg, current CEO of Growing Hope Globally described the event as being a huge family reunion.

“This is a family reunion, where part of God’s large family comes together once a year in the summer to say ‘thank you’ for the opportunity to be able to work across different denominations and different states, to help farmers overseas help themselves,” Fineberg said.

Headquartered in Western Springs, Ill., Growing Hope Globally was originally founded in 1999 as a Christian response to ending world hunger through sustainable agriculture and community involvement. It was for many years known as Food Resource Bank. Today GHG partners with 14 organizations to help smallholder farmers in developing countries grow their own food. Across the U.S., GHG engages people to help raise funding and awareness for these food security projects. Thousands of volunteers are involved, including churches, community groups and U.S. farmers.

“We currently have 169 growing projects in 20 states, but the state with the most growing projects is Iowa,” Finberg said. “The Conrad area growing project is one that has been here from near the outset of the program – around 15 years. Methodists, Presbyterians, Church of the Brethren, and other congregations came together in this area to say that they are farmers who join together to help farmers overseas. The local group is a great example of what can be done, and a model for others across the nation to follow,” he said.

Alex Morse of Kansas City, a staff member of GHG and Associate Director of programs for Latin America and the Caribbean said that the annual summer celebration is an opportunity for local growing project members to come together to celebrate another year of growing hope around the world .

“We work with farmers in rural communities across the USA to plant crops, harvest them, sell them and then give the profits that they receive to fund farmer training sessions and programs around the globe,” Morse said. “This year as we celebrate our 20th anniversary, we have a big announcement to make that the 1.75 millionth person graduated from our programs and that the group’s 2 millionth person has started a training program this year as the training programs expand to Bangladesh and West Africa.

“That is huge. To think that this is just mainly people from small rural area churches coming together to help farmers in developing countries become sustainable. And to make that much of an impact – it is incredible.”

Kevin Nelson, a growing project participant since 2004, feels the summer celebration is a renewal of sorts. “It gives all of us a chance to touch base with old friends, as well as a time to find new little quirks and things we can do to freshen up our participation and make things new for our own projects.”

“We are honored to have everyone here with us. Conrad is a small town, but we have gained a lot of respect through the project and are very happy to host the summer celebration,” said Arlyn Schipper, longtime Conrad growing project participant. “In the 15 years that we have had a project here we have donated funds to help farmers in 21 countries become sustainable for themselves.”

The evening began with a walking taco supper and a silent auction. Speaker for the evening was Roger Thurow (see sidebar story). Saturday’s activities included breakfast and worship; a panel discussion on the beginnings of FRB and GHG; Anglican Development finance and administration head Elizabeth May Righa of Kenya speaking on the financial impact that GHG has made; and a speech by Kevin Skunes ,Chairman of the National Corn Growers Association from Arthur, South Dakota. It concluded with the 20th anniversary feast.

Skunes said this was the first summer celebration that he has attended, but knows that it brings together a great bunch of people to have good fun and fellowship. More than 13 states were represented on Friday evening with even more expected to be there on Saturday.

“Within the last year GHG has seen two million people become food secure. The group helps by funding projects that teach and sustain the farmers and does not just give handouts. That is what makes this a real blessing,” Skunes said.

Pastor Kerry Carson has been involved with the local project from the beginning.

“We are excited that the day is finally here – it has been a year of planning and preparation and now we are happy to roll out the red carpet and welcome the world,” Carson said. “One of our objectives was to get new people involved with our group. and that happened during the planning. We feel like we already won before the event took place.”

For more information about Growing Hope Globally contact Morse at 888-276-4372 or by email at growinghopeglobally.org

“We have to take care of our brothers and sisters no matter from which country they reside. That is what Jesus did. Now it is up to all of us to continue his work,” Finberg said.