‘Winning’ the Silver Shovel is a giving tradition in Bonnyville

It’s one of the hottest silent auctions in Bonnyville — who will win the Silver Shovel?

Every spring for 20 years, bidders have turned out in the community to win a chance to support the local Canadian Foodgrains Bank Northeast Growing Project.

With a bid of $3,200, this year’s winners are four local churches: The Bonnyville Community Church, Bonnyville Fellowship Alliance Church, Bonnyville Baptist Church, and the Lakeview Gospel Chapel. The four churches raised the funds through an offering at a joint Good Friday service in March.

For Ken Jagessar, pastor of the Community Church, designating the offering to the Foodgrains Bank was appropriate given the interdenominational nature of the organization.

“We’re well aware of the Foodgrains Bank in Bonnyville,” said Jagessar, adding that people from the various congregations are involved in the local project.

“We appreciate the goal of the Foodgrains Bank to help feed hungry people. We’re thankful for your ministry.”

The shovels — there are now two of them since the project ran out of space to inscribe the winners after 17 years — are put on display each spring in a local business, together with information about the Foodgrains Bank. Bids can be placed until April 30, at which time a winner is announced.

“It’s a fun way for the community to be involved in support of the project,” said Terry Shenher, chair of the project’s organizing committee.

The Northeast Growing Project started in 1995 after local farmer Ed Persley heard about the Foodgrains Bank while attending a farm conference in Edmonton.

“I like what I heard, so I came back home and told others about it,” he said. “They got excited by the idea, and it just took off.”

Since then, the silent auction has raised more than $365,000 for the Foodgrains Bank from a 120-acre piece of land just outside the city. That doesn’t include matching grants from the federal government, which are typically done on a three-to-one basis.

Asked how the project has been able to keep going for so long, Shenher said the reason is simple.

“We grow food, and we like that our giving is based on what we do for a living,” he said.

“We also like that the Foodgrains Bank helps farmers in the developing world, helping them to improve their farms and grow more food to become self-sufficient,” added Persley.

For Guy Bonneau, a member of the local Catholic Church, the involvement of many different churches is a plus.

“We like that it is interdenominational,” he said.

It all adds up to a successful two decades of community involvement and support.

“We don’t have to ask people more than once for help,” said Shenher. “People are happy to be involved.”

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