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Wednesday, 02 September 2015 06:05

Farming community supports Rock Solid Refuge with a crop fundraiser

Written by  Matthew Liebenberg
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The sight of seven combines harvesting a durum crop that will raise funds for Rock Solid Refuge brought a huge smile to Wendell Patzer’s face.


He was watching Aug. 29 as farmers were crisscrossing his land, which is located about 12 kilometres south of Swift Current next to Highway 4, with their combines while other volunteers were waiting with their trucks to transport the crop to an elevator.
Wendell and Wendy Patzer farmed in the Frontier area, but just over four years ago, they sold the land and moved to the acreage near Swift Current.
“God is great; it’s amazing,” he said. “When you move to a new community you’re kind of the outsider but there is a real sense of community right here. It’s through getting involved with different people and getting to meet some and sit down and visiting and then this guy know that guy and then they phone. It’s just nice to see that there’s so many people that have the same vision to help out and my heart is warm today.”
Wendell and Wendy are long-time supporters of Rock Solid Refuge, a Christian-based residential program of 12 to 15 months for teenage boys struggling with life controlling issues.
The program was founded as a non-profit charity in 2005 and is located on a 60-acre property northeast of Shaunavon.
“We were involved right from the get go when it was started at Simmie Bible Camp,” Wendell recalled. “Then I helped build the building that was there. ... I spent the first six months of non-farming life building that building.”
When they moved to their new acreage near Swift Current they wanted to continue supporting Rock Solid Refuge.
“We wanted to give back basically for the Lord providing this place,” he said. “So what we’ve done is we provide this land and we talked to all the input people to give all the donations of fertilizer and seed and chemical and all that and then through the farmers who are able to help.”
This was the third year the Land for Land crop fundraiser took place. Rock Solid Refuge Executive Director Dallas Block said about 50 acres is provided by the Patzers while another 70 acres has been made available by neighbouring farmer Henry Fehr.
This year’s durum crop yielded 44.4 bushels per acre that will raise close to $50,000 for Rock Solid Refuge. The money will be used to help pay off the project’s remaining debt, which was incurred to buy the land near Shaunavon to establish the Rock Solid Refuge facility.
“The first year, we grew durum as well and the yield was tremendous,” Block recalled. “Last year’s crop was a really good pea crop, and unfortunately it did get hailed out. They harvested it anyways and they still got 24 bushels to the acre and so between the crop insurance and the crop that they actually pulled off there it still brought in $33,000 or somewhere around there.”
The Land for Land fundraiser has become a success through the support of farmers and agribusiness in the Swift Current area.
“Some people that have been involved with the Canadian Foodgrains Bank have given us some great advice and some ways in which we can make this work really quite well without being too much of a burden on anybody,” he said.
Block noted that many people came out to help with this year’s harvesting of the crop or simply to watch, which is indicative of the support that the Land for Land fundraiser has received from the community.
“Obviously, we’ve got some great support from farmers in the reasonably close vicinity, but just tremendous support in the southwest,” he said. “We’ve also had lots of people in the southwest that were sponsoring it by donating $100 per acre to help cover some extra costs that aren’t covered by the donations of either chemical, seed or machinery, so expenses like crop insurance.”
The Rock Solid Refuge facility can accommodate up to 16 teenage boys. The number of participants have varied between 10 and 12 over the past year. The program currently has around 20 staff and the annual budget is about $1 million, of which a significant portion must be generated through fundraising initiatives.
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Rock Solid Refuge operates an accredited independent school and therefore receives some funding from the Saskatchewan Ministry of Education.
“That certainly helps us out a lot, although that’s a pretty small part of our overall budget,” he said.
The tuition fee of about $1,500 per month is not sufficient to cover the actual cost of the program, which amounts to around $5,500 per month per student.
“So we do have to fundraise for a lot of the expenses here in order to be able to offer a program that’s at least reasonably accessible within financial means of a lot of people,” he said. “If we charged everything that it cost us, then it would be cost prohibitive for a lot if not most of the families that we work with.”
Block is hoping to see the completion of a project this fall at the facility to create an outdoor gymnasium through the pouring of a 60 by 100 feet concrete slab. It will be used as a basketball, volleyball and skateboard park in the summer and as an ice skating rink in the winter.
“It’s actually a very important project because physical activity for teenagers, especially teenage guys that we work with, is extremely important,” he said.
The Land for Land crop fundraiser has helped them to increase awareness in the Swift Current area about the work done by Rock Solid Refuge to provide support for teenage boys who are struggling with life controlling issues and who are also experiencing learning difficulties.
“In some sense we’re still far enough from Swift Current that a lot of the local people don’t know about us or awareness is still growing quite a bit,” he said. “So any project that’s closer to Swift Current or presentations or opportunities that are in or around Swift Current just really raise the awareness for us right there. Swift Current is a very important community to us, because they are very supportive of these kind of initiatives if people know about them.”

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