Marianne Muellerleile Gives a Hand UP

You’ve seen her… I promise you have… she’s done more that 200 TV shows and movies. And she has that sort of presence that is unforgettable. I have been a fan for many years and I was so happy when Marianne Muellereile and I started chatting at an audition last week. I’m not sure how it happened but pretty soon…

we were talking about our passions.

She lit up when she started talking about her fundraising work and especially the impact she has had on Heifer International. Her warmth and joy at helping so many people in so many areas was palpable. Her heart is big, her compassion bigger. Here is a glimpse of Marianne’s journey with Heifer International…

How did the Heifer International organization come about?

Heifer International was founded in 1944 by a Church of the Brethren Christian missionary, Dan West. He was in Spain handing out cups of milk to refugee children and wondered what good is this doing? As an Indiana farmer, he suddenly realized they did not need a cup, they needed a cow! He went back to Indiana, heart on fire, and talked 17 of his neighbors into donating cows which he put on a boat to Puerto Rico and Heifer International was born.

Heifer International is helping lead a “livestock revolution.”

How did you personally become involved?

In 2002, I was a series regular on a sitcom, so my income shot up dramatically. Because it is our practice to tithe 10% I began to search for a charity that spoke to me.

Tuning into an OPRAH episode I saw then Heifer president/ceo Jo Luck talk about Heifer’s mission and how they “give a hand up, not a hand out”. That spoke to me. I did my due diligence and found them to be worthy, transparent and good stewards of donor dollars. We became donors. Over the years I have become increasingly involved.

“I am very proud to be Heifer’s number one volunteer fundraiser”

Tell me about Heifer and its programs.

Heifer International works with communities of need to end hunger and poverty and care for the Earth.

Since 1944, Heifer has helped over 107 million people—in more than 125 countries, to become self-determining and self-reliant through values-based interventions of livestock, seeds, trees, training and technology.

Heifer International is helping lead a “livestock revolution.” We work with a rapidly growing group of smallholder farmers, mostly women, to inspire agro-ecological productivity, bio- diversity, financial security and health; to connect them to viable markets so they contribute to and benefit from agricultural value chains and thus create the surplus needed to feed the world.

What are your goals for the next 5 years?

Heifer’s goal for the next 5 years is to expand our impact and scope exponentially through our “Passing on the Gift” approach which rapidly replicates our results from one community to another. We have a time tested, proven model of values-based, holistic community development that develops centers of economic activities in areas of no opportunities.

My goal for the next 3 years is to continue to fund raise, specifically for the Guatemala Green Business Belt Phase 1 Project. It aims to close the Living Income gap of 6,250 spice producers, by implementing inclusive green businesses in Alta Verapaz (5 municipalities), the area with the greatest potential to develop high value agro-forestry products and related services managed by communities and local organizations. Investing in value chains that promote sustainable land-use practices will generate incomes for rural families (9,615) and offer many non-cash-benefits such as ecosystem services (forest restoration, habitat safe zones, climate mitigation), cultural revitalization, stable employment, community pride and increased governance capacity. Fifty percent of project hires will directly engage women and youth, especially in small to medium size enterprise (SPE) management roles and in spice-related products and eco-tourism services.

I’ve made a personal commitment of 75K which I intend to double, if not triple.

Our partnerships with families and communities last from three to five years to ensure resilience and durability

What do you personally spend most of your time doing for Heifer?

Over the years I’ve had many volunteer opportunities with Heifer: public speaker, information rep at street fairs, work large fund raising events (greeter, handle celebrities, point person, facilitate auctions, committee chair, …), ETC. One thing I have always done as a Heifer donor/volunteer is fund-raise.

I am very proud to be Heifer’s number one volunteer fundraiser, having raised as of this moment, $357,523 for a variety of their projects.

I am committed to fundraising for them indefinitely.

What inspires you about Heifer International, perhaps a specific program or a story?

I have so many stories of inspiration I could share with you. One that shines so brightly was a passing-on- the gift ceremony I witnessed while at a Heifer project in Honduras. One project member had achieved a liveable wage for her family by integrating Heifer’s 12 Cornerstonesfor Just and Sustainable Development. She was then able to participate in the cornerstone of Passing on the Gift. Her community gathered to celebrate her giving two dozen baby chicks to another needy woman, who had walked 2 hours with her small children over the mountains to receive them. There was singing, clapping, hugs, laughter, food, joy abounding everywhere. The giver went from recipient to donor and her pride was palpable. The new recipient, filled with hope and joy explained that her husband would come in the evening to fetch the gifted chickens. I’ve seen this ceremony in Vietnam and will see it again in Guatemala. It never gets old.

Want to help? You can donate here…


What are some areas of opportunity for your organization?

The most obvious way is to join my team of donors by visiting my personal fund raising page.

Visit Marianne Muellerleile’s Page to Donate

If they wish to be on my personal donor update list they can contact me at [email protected]. I send updates via email a few times a year.
 Your readers can go also learn more about Heifer by going to

How has Heifer International improved or evolved over time?

Heifer began as a small church based organization and remained around the $6M per year size for its first 50 years. Then in the ‘90s creative minds at Heifer created our Heifer gift catalog where people can purchase animals for families in need in lieu of holiday gifts. Within 10 years Heifer’s income grew to $135M, and it remains around $120M today. Nine years ago, our average project size was 150 families. Today our average size is 1000 families, with several very large projects working with up to 200,000 families.

Is there anything that you wish more people knew about the Heifer International

Our partnerships with families and communities last from three to five years to ensure resilience and durability—our work does not take advantage of funding and project opportunities and then exit as soon as the project is over—and the transformation continues as each family pledges to pass on the first-born female offspring of their animal, with training, to another needy family.

This Passing on the Gift® shifts the communities we work with from being recipients to donors. The deep psychological transformation is remarkable, but this is but one tenet of our Cornerstones for Just and Sustainable Development, which aim to create social justice and build social capital through values such as gender equity, full participation, accountability, nutrition and income, improved animal management, improving the environment, training and full participation.

These are the building blocks of Heifer’s proven model—community building in its purest form, community decided and community driven to achieve economic and social independence. We do it this way because economic growth without social change and growth is doomed to fail. It doesn’t last; it isn’t sustainable.
Our partnerships with government, corporations, non-government and community service organizations and others enable us to leverage our limited resources to deliver even greater impact—helping more families faster—to increase local capacity, capture and facilitate wisdom and knowledge transfer, implement better practices and engage the full range and potential of the pro-poor market-based value chain.

What’s the most important thing you’d like our readers to know about Heifer?

Our “Passing on the Gift” approach along with “not a cup, but a cow!”. Heifer has a model that is sustainable and brings dignity to those in need. Bottom line, it works!

How can readers get involved?

Visit their website to learn the many ways to be involved.

At a time when so much is going on in the world that can pull us apart, it is beautiful to see people coming together to truly help each other.

Thank you Marianne for stepping up!

Please check out Heifer International

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