When Henry and Hilda Schulz of Sanford, Manitoba were still farming, one of the crops they grew was barley.
When friends at their church learned this, they asked them for barley seed to make Easter centerpieces—a way to bring a little spring and new life into their homes.
“Barley grows fast, and it looks like grass,” says Hilda. “You plant it, moisten it, cover it with plastic and the barley emerges after a few days. In about 10 days it is the right height. Placing colored eggs in the grass makes it a lovely table centerpiece.”
She initially gave the barley away. But since Henry was involved in a Canadian Foodgrains Bank growing project in nearby Domain, she realized it might make an excellent fundraiser for the Foodgrains Bank.
At first, she thought it would be only a small fundraiser, selling half-a-cup of barley seed for a dollar.
“I thought that maybe I’d get a hundred dollars,” says Hilda.
Instead, she got over $900 that first year.
“It blew me away,” she says, citing the generosity of her fellow church members at Sargent Mennonite Church in Winnipeg. Besides buying the barley, people donated additional funds to the Foodgrains Bank.
That was 19 years ago; she’s been selling barley for Easter centerpieces ever since.
These days, Henry and Hilda don’t farm anymore. Instead, they get the barley from a seed plant, sell it and donate the proceeds to the Foodgrains Bank.
2015 was their most successful year, raising $2,372.00
But that’s not all they do. Throughout the year, Hilda gets flax from a local seed cleaning plant, and sells it at $10 for an ice cream pail — a bargain compared to the price in many grocery stores. The proceeds are then donated to the Foodgrains Bank.
“A lot of people are on a flax health craze,” she says, adding that the plant often donates the flax. “They use it for baking, cooking, or whatever else they want.”
For Hilda and Henry, supporting the work of ending global hunger is a way of responding to God’s call set out in the Bible.
“Christ calls us to feed the hungry and clothe the poor,” she says. “We all have to do what we can and this is our small part.”
That call is also a very personal one for Hilda.
“My parents left on the last train out of Russia in 1929,” she says, adding that they eventually made their way to Manitoba.
“But my maternal grandparents were not so fortunate. They were not able to leave Russia. They were evicted from their village and had a very hard life after that. Some of my uncles were exiled to Siberia, where they died, likely of starvation.”
The Schulzes like going to the Foodgrains Bank’s annual fall meetings in Manitoba, where supporters gather to reflect on the past growing season and hear about the work that has been accomplished.
“I have a passion for the people who are helped,” says Hilda.
For them, the Foodgrains Bank is “the best and most efficient organization that works to end hunger around the world. It is God at work through committed followers of Jesus.”
Overall, she says her involvement with the Foodgrains Bank is “a way of saying ‘thank you’ that I have food in my cupboards.”
“My pantry is full and my freezers are overflowing. I can’t imagine myself or my family in those situations.”
“When it comes to raising money to help end hunger we are only limited by our imagination,” says Harold Penner, Foodgrains Bank Regional Coordinator in Manitoba. “Hilda and Henry dreamed up a plan that worked for them, and hopefully it will inspire others.”