The Central Alberta growing project started in 1996, when a group of passionate farmers decided to grow food to help those facing hunger overseas. Vic Bergen (L) and Jack Siebenga (R) are founding members.
Blackfalds United Church in central Alberta may have closed its doors, but the congregation’s hearts remain wide open.
After selling the building that served as a place of worship for more than a century, the church gave the last of its funds to other local churches and several charities, including $25,000 to the Central Alberta growing project.
The Foodgrains Bank does a lot of good for people around the world, and we are very happy to provide this support.”
Through the growing project, a group of farmers volunteer their time to grow and harvest a crop, and then sell it on the Canadian market. Proceeds are donated to Canadian Foodgrains Bank to be used in the work of responding to world hunger.
“We know the money goes to a great cause,” says Maurice Defoe, the church’s trustee. “The Foodgrains Bank does a lot of good for people around the world, and we are very happy to provide this support.”
A staple in the community, Blackfalds United Church provided a place for many suppers, funerals, weddings and health immunization clinics. Girl Guides, Boy Scouts, dance troupes and other groups also used the space for meetings and community events.
Closing the doors of the church was not a decision anyone took lightly.
“With great misgivings and sadness, and with many impacting factors, the decision to close was made in early 2018, and the building was sold just over one year later,” says Defoe.
But the selling of the church would not be the congregation’s swan song.
“Maurice Defoe asked me to meet him at Tim Hortons in Blackfalds,” says Doug Maas of the Central Alberta growing project. “I didn’t really know what it was about, and that’s when he showed me the cheque. I couldn’t believe how big the amount was.”
The Central Alberta growing project started in 1996, when a group of passionate farmers decided to grow food to help those facing hunger overseas. Today, the committee has nine members. Since it started, the project has raised $1.3 million dollars for families in need, before any government matching is considered. And they aren’t finished yet.
Next year the project celebrates its 25th anniversary. Plans for the milestone were nearly derailed with the challenge of finding land this year. But once again, they found support in the community when a Lacombe County farmer made 70 acres of his recently purchased parcel available.
“Thank you to all the people in the community who support this project, our farmers, our partners, and also city churches who sponsor acres from afar,” says Maas. “And thank you so much to Blackfalds United Church for your generous gift.”
Maas says the money will help purchase fertilizer, and if donated land is ever hard to come by, can be used to rent land so the project can continue without worry.
“We’ve always had strong support from the churches, because they believe in the work of the Foodgrains Bank and know they’re careful with how the money is used” says Maas. “I do a lot of volunteer work, and this organization stands out because it has a large volunteer base, admin costs are low, and the food gets to the people who need it. The Foodgrains Bank has a special place in my heart, and I know I’m not alone.”
– Jason Permanand, Writer