My Heifer story spans many years punctuated by experiences and friendships that I could not have imagined for myself. Compassionate, ecumenical, world-savvy mentors set the example. Among them, Louise Johnson at First Christian Church in Vallejo, CA. During the 1970s and 80s Louise welcomed worshippers to the “Produce Table,” where fresh bounty from her family garden was available to anyone for a donation to Heifer Project.

That was my introduction to Heifer. By 1990, my husband and I had settled in the Sacramento, CA area. There, we encountered Ray and Dorothy Miller and the Sacramento Area Heifer Volunteer Committee…..a somewhat legendary group for the tens of thousands of dollars collected for Heifer each year. I became a member of the Committee and organized Fill the Ark campaigns at Sierra Christian Church in Rocklin for over 20 years. Sometimes we took a carload of church kids and parents to Heifer’s Learning Center in Ceres, CA, where another mentor, Rev Bill Beck, was Heifer’s Regional Director in the West. At the Ceres Learning Center I met other Bay Area and Central Valley volunteers and Heifer Cowboys, and was a sometime docent for school programs.

In 1998, Bill Beck nominated me to serve on Heifer’s Board of Directors as a Pacific West representative. Being a Board member for six years enlarged my Heifer network and deepened my knowledge of sustainable animal agriculture, community development and environmental stewardship. I remember Heifer’s revenue reaching $10 million, the introduction of Heifer’s Cornerstones for Sustainable Development, and the purchase of land for a new LEED-certified headquarters building in Little Rock where I attended Heifer’s 60th. There were Heifer Study Tours to Bolivia, Peru, Poland, Slovakia, Albania, Kosovo and Ecuador, as well as visits to project sites in Appalachia and Chicago, Tanzania and Kenya, and participation in Women’s Lambing Weekend and Heifer University at The Perryville Ranch. I witnessed numerous ” Passing on the Gift” ceremonies, and participated in a ribbon-cutting for a milk collection facility in Kosovo, experiences that have stayed with me.

In 1996, my husband Roy and I enlisted the assistance of Jerry Bedford to establish a Charitable Remainder Trust with Heifer Foundation. Following Roy’s passing in 2006, I established The Awalt Family Endowment, also at the Foundation. Both of these estate gifts are still growing and blessing Heifer’s work. I have returned to live in the Bay Area and to First Christian Church in Vallejo, the place where I was introduced to Heifer Project. Each December, for over 20 years, First Christian Church has hosted an ecumenical Global Holiday Faire. Heifer has been one of the alternative gift options since the beginning. I love to share the good news that is Heifer and my witness to the transformative power of Heifer’s partnerships with families around the world. I have been a Heifer volunteer and donor for thirty years now, and I credit my association with Heifer for developing in me a passion for global citizenship and sustainable philanthropy. Heifer has also afforded me wonderful friendships that continue to sustain me. How lucky I am!!!

Suzanne Awalt
Member, Heifer Volunteer Committee, Sacramento, CA
Benicia, CA