At this year's celebration, the DuPage County Fair Association will have jars in barns and tents to collect change for the Haitian town of Jeremie.
But the money won't be going to buy food, clothing, shelter or supplies. Instead, it will buy families a goat.
Contact information ( * required )
For every $150 collected, the Haitian Health Foundation will purchase a pregnant goat for a family in Jeremie. The families are chosen by local committees on the basis of economic status, participation in health education and their commitment to the growth of their community.
The Give a Goat program serves the mission of the foundation, which is to improve the health and well-being of the poor and sick of the greater Jeremie area, with a focus on women and children.
The foundation was started 30 years ago by Dr. Jeremiah Lowney after he went to Haiti with the sisters of Mother Teresa. As a dentist there, he extracted diseased teeth from people.
After that experience, Mother Teresa asked Lowney to go to Jeremie, where 600,000 people were without any type of health care. Lowney opened a facility, which provides care for 230,000 people of 105 villages and Jeremie.
"I decided this was something I wanted to continue to do," he said. "The people there are very needy."
Lowney still travels to Haiti every three months, during which time he gives the goats to the people of Jeremie.
"We decided rather than just give them money, we'd give them a goat to get them started," Lowney said.
The Give a Goat program was started 11 years ago and distributes roughly 600 goats a year. Without the program, Lowney said, the villagers would never be able to afford one on their own -- the average Haitian makes only between $90 and $300 in one year.
"It's a wonderful project because it gives these people who have absolutely nothing opportunity," Lowney said. "It gives the people the opportunity to be self-sufficient. Their opportunity for escaping this poverty is very limited. Through no fault of their own, they're born in the wrong place."
The goat gives milk and can be used for nutritional purposes, or it can be bred. Once the goat gives birth, the offspring also can be bartered and sold at market.
Lowney said the Give a Goat program is unique because it's one of the few pure donations that exist. There's no overhead, and those who donate receive a photo of the goat and its recipient.
"There's nobody in the middle," he said. "What you give goes toward buying a goat. If you give $75, that buys half a goat."
Diane Weber, treasurer and board member of the DuPage County Fair Association, said the association tries to do something different at the fair each year to give back to the community. After seeing the program mentioned in a newspaper six months ago, Weber thought it would be a good choice for this year.
"Since it's ag-related and we're an agricultural fair, it seemed like a good fit," she said. "We try to educate the public about agriculture, but at the same time, we want to give something in return."
Lowney said fair goers shouldn't pass up the opportunity to know that for the cost of one night out for some, another family is doing better because they cared.
"We're all stewards of what we've been given," he said. "Our stewards are not for us to keep, but to give back to others."