Group turns book reading into livestock NORTHWEST -- Taneytown * Union Bridge * New Windsor * Uniontown

January 14, 1993|By Traci A. Johnson | Traci A. Johnson,Staff Writer

For Iris Kauffman, reading feeds much more than the imagination.

As one of the administrators of the Read-to-Feed program at the New Windsor Service Center, she oversees a program meant to stimulate interest in reading while it raises money for Heifer Project International.

"The idea is to learn about the Heifer Project," said Ms. Kauffman, administrative assistant for HPI. "The end result is earning enough money to purchase or send an animal to a needy family so they can learn how to feed themselves."

In the Read-to-Feed program, people earn money through pledges from family and friends to buy food-producing animals and to pay for training resource-poor families to provide food for themselves.

Interested groups come into the HPI headquarters in New Windsor and receive a leader's packet that includes HPI literature, activity sheets and award certificates for participants, to be filled out at the completion of the program.

"We also give them a list of animals the groups can purchase," said Ms. Kauffman. The list includes bees, fish, rabbits and pigs. "We have had several hundred groups participate over the years."

Organizations can pay from $20 for a baby chick -- capable of laying 200 eggs a year as a full-grown hen -- to $500 for a pregnant heifer, which can produce as much as 30 quarts of milk a day after giving birth.

"If a group purchased a goat, that goat could provide milk and cheese and also meat for the family," Ms. Kauffman said. "Volunteers give training to families so they can raise the animals for food and market any byproducts."

While anyone can participate in the program, operated out of the eight regional offices around the country, church groups and Sunday school classes provide most of the participants, Ms. Kauffman said.

"The kids collect pledges and are able to read anything they like," Ms. Kauffman said. "Each individual group leader decides on a time limit, and the children collect the money once they are done."

"It's a worthwhile project that involves so many different things," said Ruth Pape, a librarian for Grace Lutheran Church on Harford Road in Baltimore, who instituted the program in her church three years ago.

Ms. Pape, however, had to take a different approach with the program. She promoted it among elderly people in her congregation rather than gearing it toward children.

"We only have two little boys to make up our 'group' of young people," Ms. Pape, 75, said. "Instead of doing that program with kids, I got some of the adults here to do it."

Ms. Pape said her program works the same way with pledges, except there is no time limit.

"Each time a person reads a book from the church library that they enjoy, they donate some change, up to a quarter," Ms. Pape said.

"Over the last three years, we have bought many animals, like rabbits and bees, chicks and goats," she said. "We also bought trees for reforestation in South America."

Although many Carroll organizations support the project through other programs, none of the schools or churches in the area has introduced the Feed-to-Read program.

Ms. Kauffman said a lack of publicity in the area has affected community involvement in the reading program.

"The program has been around for about eight years or so, but in the earlier years we hadn't really organized it," said Ms. Kauffman, who said a Frederick County church is the closest Read-to-Feed participant. "But since we have worked on it some, the program has grown to where several organizations have used it for a community project."

Ms. Kauffman said she hopes this program, like other HPI endeavors, will continue to flourish for the sake of the people who benefit from it.

"I was thinking the other day that there are so many hungry people in the world," she said. "Think how many more would be here if it wasn't for programs like these."

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