In the leafy hosta plant, Richard and Susan Eyre of Woodstock, Ill., found the perfect symbol for the philosophy of sustained giving they share with Heifer Foundation.
Hostas are self-perpetuating plants with “eyes” or “crowns” that multiply every year. When divided, each individual plant continues to multiply — year after year after year — just as the money the Eyres raise by selling hostas grows to enrich lives every year through Heifer Foundation endowments they established to further the work of Heifer International.
The plants, Susan says, are “the gift that keeps on giving,” which is precisely how she and Richard feel about Heifer Foundation and its planned giving opportunities.
“We love the foundation because the money you contribute is there for perpetuity,” Susan says. The couple, both of whom served on the board of Heifer Foundation (and Susan on the board of Heifer International), have devoted their lives to raising money for the foundation as well as spreading the word about Heifer International.
One way they do so is through their annual Hosta Happening. The Eyres, owners of Rich’s Foxwillow Pines Nursery, sell pots of hostas as their way of “passing on the gift.” Each sale, headed by 97-year-old Margaret Eyre (Richard’s mother), draws hundreds of people.
“People from all over come. They know to bring their checkbook and write the checks directly to Heifer, and 100 percent of the proceeds benefit Heifer International,” Susan says. “Many times they write checks for more than what their plants are worth because they want to help out Heifer International.”
With money from hosta sales and other projects, the Eyres established a family endowment as well as individual country endowments for Rwanda, Bolivia, Haiti, Ghana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.
Some years, hosta money has gone directly into the endowments; other years, it has been used to immediately benefit a specific Heifer International project. The couple raised $50,000 for landscaping at the Heifer International headquarters in Little Rock, Ark. One year, they earmarked money from a Hosta Happening to match donations from Heifer International employees.
“With Heifer, we give whatever we can,” Richard says. “Our commitment has always been trying to raise money for the foundation. We decided that because we don’t have any children and aren’t sending anyone to college, that we would sell all our hostas for Heifer International.”
“We live very simply and frugally. I suppose that’s why we have the resources to donate to organizations like Heifer International. An individual cannot make that much of a difference, but when you have an organization that’s doing great things, you feel like you’re part of a much bigger group.”
The couple has visited Heifer projects in many countries, including Honduras, Bolivia and India, to witness firsthand how Heifer International’s mission to “to work with communities to end hunger and poverty, and to care for the Earth” affects individuals and communities.
Visiting India was a powerful experience, Susan says. “That was a fascinating country because their problems are so immense. The population pressure is very intense. There’s a lot of poverty in India, but when you visit a village that has Heifer projects, there’s a whole different demeanor among the people. There is prosperity and hope and food.”
She and her husband want to pass on their passion for giving by telling others about Heifer International and encouraging them to contribute through Heifer Foundation.
“We are not the center of the universe as individuals or a country,” Susan says. “But see the big picture and see what you can do for others. Heifer International is one way for you to do for others. We can give all the love we have away and still have so much more to come.”