Doing the right thing: Widower sells precious cars to feed starving children
Harvey Hielkema's decision to sell his collection of vintage cars and tractors was made for a simple reason: God told him to.
As the 77-year-old Baldwin widower tells it, several months ago while he read through a book about the number of children around the world suffering and dying from hunger and malnutrition, God spoke to him.
"All of a sudden, I could hear the Lord saying to me, 'You don't need all that stuff in your sheds when all those kids are starving.'"
Hielkema took the message to heart and called an auctioneer.
At 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 30, Hager Auction Service will auction off the cars and trucks Hielkema has collected over the past 15 years. He will give all the proceeds to an organization called Feed My Starving Children (FMSC).
On the auction bill are seven classic cars, 10 vintage tractors and a horse buggy.
Vehicles include a 1917 Model T that's "been restored to just like new"; a 1930 Model A, all restored except the upholstery; a 1957 Chevrolet with 21,000 original miles; a 1963 Chevy Nova Convertible; a 1978 Chevy Camaro "Arizona car"; a 1983 Ford Mustang convertible; a 1984 Chevy Corvette; and an Amish horse buggy that's never been used.
Tractors include a 1935 John Deere B; a 1938 Farmall F20; a 1940 Ford 9N; a 1940 Ford N Tractor; and a 1941 Farmall M.
Hielkema, a retired real estate agent who has also worked in building and development, figures he paid a total of $70,000 for the vehicles when he bought them.
Founded in 1987, FMSC is a Christian nonprofit that provides nutritionally complete meals for starving and malnourished people in nearly 70 countries around the world. Based in Minneapolis, it has some permanent meal-packing sites but also holds periodic drives at other sites where volunteers fund and assemble the dry meals.
Hielkema, a member of First Reformed Church in Baldwin, has gone to several FMSC events. He's also heavily involved in other volunteer efforts.
"I keep busy," he admitted.
He volunteers at Union Gospel Mission in the Twin Cities two days a week and regularly at the local food pantry and takes turns with another man watering the flowers along Hwy. 63 and Main Street in Baldwin.
He has also gone on mission trips to Russia, China, Cambodia, Ecuador and Mexico.
But he is most active with First Reformed's Africa Mission Group.
"We go to Africa quit often," said Hielkema, who will be going to Malawi -- a small country north of Mozambique in southeast Africa -- with his church's Africa Mission Group the fifth time this July.
Nine members will help build a school for children left orphaned by AIDS.
"We're way out in the bush," said Hielkema. "No water. No electricity."
After his wife and granddaughter died within months of one another a few years ago, a group of 12, including nine family members, made the trip to Africa to honor their loved ones, said Hielkema.
"Ever since I came here four years ago, Harvey has engaged in an ongoing commitment to mission - to serve people not just locally but around the world," said Pastor Tim Suiter of First Reformed Church.
He said the Baldwin churches are hosting a mobile packing for FMSC Sept. 14-15. The money raised at the auction will held fund that.
As for giving up his collection of vehicles, Hielkema says it's little enough to do. He has four grown children and admits some of them had their eyes on a couple of the vintage cars.
"But," he said, "they know how I think and how I feel."
The auction will begin at 5:30 p.m. at Hielkema's residence, 2150 55th Ave., Baldwin.
To get there, take the Hwy. 63 exit off I-94 at Baldwin, go north a quarter of a mile to 55th Avenue, turn east at Hardee's and drive a half mile.
To see photos and a full listing of the vehicles that will be auctioned off, visit the website, www.hagerauction.com.