Friday, September 9, 2016

Passing Gifts

Near the banks of the Arkansas River in downtown Little Rock sits a unique building of glass and steel which is the headquarters of Heifer International. I really don't know where to start this post. Should I tell about this non-profit organization or should I tell about the building. I think I'll just tell it to you as it was told to us. Us, being my sister and sister-in-law. We've been stuck inside so much this summer with the heat, humidity, and constant rain. I'm not complaining about the rain. It's actually been good. We still have lush green grass which is very unusual! Anyway, needing to just "do" something, we decided to play tourist in our town and visit Heifer International. We'd mostly be inside, which is a good thing.

We first took the tour of the Heifer Village which houses the educational building and their cafe. You'll notice that it looks a little unkempt, but really it's not. They replanted the area with native cone flowers and reeds, much like it was before they developed it. More on the development later. 

Our guide was well informed and so very comfortable to be with. I won't go into a lot of detail. If you're interested in more information you can visit their website. This organization was started in 1944 when an Ohio farmer, Dan West, who was a Church Of The Brethren relief worker during the Spanish War, directed a program where hungry refugee children were given rations of milk. He later wrote that he thought "these children don't need a cup, they need a cow." Heifer International started with a shipment of 17 heifers (pregnant cows) to Puerto Rico.  The men who went along on this sea voyage to deliver the cows were called "seagoing cowboys."

Heifer International now distributes many types of animals such as fish, pigs, camels, rabbits, goats, bees, water buffalo, llamas, and chickens to poor rural communities. They work in each state in the United States and several foreign countries.

The first heifers given were named "Faith, "Hope" and "Charity." The recipient families had to promise that they would donate the first female calf to another impoverished family to pass along their gift. This is still a requirement for receiving an animal. You must pass the gift to others.

One more thing before I move on about the cafe, the food was delicious. We had their days special a chicken sandwich with honey sauce, fresh vegetables and homemade chips. We couldn't pass up dessert either. I had a piece of blueberry/peach cheesecake. Needless to say we needed to move around after that meal, so we toured the main headquarters.

Heifer's campus is built on the site of a long-abandoned railroad yard. The land had actually been condemned due to years of industrial pollutants. After Heifer purchased the land they remove tons of soil, rocks, and salvaged building supplies. These were taken to an approved location and literally cleaned of all their pollutants. The soil, rocks, and what they could salvage of the old buildings were then brought back to the site. Some of the sidewalks were made with the old bricks. The steel and glass building that was erected achieved the highest "green building" rating possible. It uses 55 percent less energy than conventional office buildings of similar size and use.

First off, all that glass is there for more than just beauty. The windows allow staff to work in natural light. You read that right; natural light. There are some very small LED lights that contain sensors that can adjust the lighting based on the amount of darkness outside. I was amazed, I had no idea until we were told that the bright light we were seeing inside was natural and from the windows. The building is narrow, so the entire floor can be lit by windows on each side. With everyone working in cubicles, even the big shots, there are very few walls to block the light from outside.

The building is curved so the journey of the sun will illuminate the interior of the building all day. 

Next they use gray water, rainwater that is captured in a collection tower, to supply non-consumable water. In the picture above you can see the reflection of the tall structure that houses the collection tower. It's like a very, very tall funnel. The rainwater is also funneled from specially designed roofs and parking areas through a filtering system into a holding area which includes a pond and a mote around the building.

There are many more things that make this building "green", but they're in the structure of the building; the air conditioning, wiring, plumbing, etc. The counter tops are made from recycled Coke bottles and the insulation from recycled t-shirts and seeds. Even the carpet was made with recycled material. Anytime they could use something recycled they did. There were other things, but it was a lot to absorb and I don't remember them all. I was pretty much in awe of this building!

Inside, the building is decorated with gorgeous pieces of art from paintings to huge tapestries that are gifts from various countries. The tapestries hang in an atrium area that is four stories high. Three tapestries hang one of top of the other. There was a total of twelve. These pictures definitely don't show their massive size.

It is amazing how this company has transformed a piece of condemned property into a thriving wetland habitat surrounding their buildings. It's also amazing to know that they have helped millions of hungry people, not just by handing out food, but by teaching them how to grow their own food for themselves and their new livestock. They want these families to become self-reliant and in return help others.

I hope you've enjoyed the tour with us and hope this hasn't been too much information. I'm always afraid I'm going to bore someone. Of course, if I do, you can just look at the pictures! I have this inward zeal to learn more about every place I go and then my stories get kind of long.

 Until later, enjoy each moment of your day!


  1. we all have so many beautiful attractions, right in our home towns. this is lovely and sounds like a fun tour!!

    i was not bored, i found the entire story interesting. i love when people are interested in abandon properties and turn them into something beautiful and productive. it sounds like someone put a lot of thought in to it's construction and the end result is brilliant, as are the art and tapestries!!!

    and your reflection image is awesome. i'm glad you are getting your mojo back, you just need a trip or two and some nice pictures!!!

  2. My son, who is a licensed architect but works as cad drawing manager of a large construction company in Denver, is very interested in green design. I'll send him your blog post. Your tour is very interesting. I'm a big believer in natural light.

  3. Very interesting- I didn't know all that about the Heifer place, although I think I had it confused with the one near Perryville. Very cool about using natural, and the rainwater collection.

  4. You always have a nice pace of photos and words, very readable. I loved seeing and hearing about the building and how the non-profit is living their vision. I am a huge lover of natural light and that building seems like an ideal place to work for that.

  5. You are a very good storyteller, found this building as you described it to be very interesting indeed. Love that they used the land as a nature habitat.

  6. Cathy, this was a fascinating post, not a minute too long, and not boring in the least! I love the work of Heifer International, but I knew nothing about their headquarters. Having worked for several years (as an administrative assistant) at an architecture and engineering firm, I know something about "green building" and what goes into it. What they've done at that site is very impressive, and very beautiful, too. Thanks so much for sharing!

  7. Wow! That is totally amazing! Thanks for all the info and excellent photos.

  8. I loved all your images and reading about Heifer International. I loved all those clever ideas of recycling!

  9. I definitely want to take the boys here sometime!

  10. That was just a cool place to read about. Thanks for sharing.


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