Farm Horizons, May 2010

Local FFA chapters promote service leadership within their communities

By Kristen Miller
Staff Writer

Developing individuals who have a passion for giving back and serving others in their community is one of the goals of the area FFA chapters.

Seena Glessing, Dassel-Cokato FFA advisor, calls it “developing servant leaders.” She and Jim Weninger, FFA advisor at Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted, teach a number of leadership courses that incorporate components of service leadership.

“We hope they will continue to give back to their community when they are older,” Glessing said.

Weninger says it’s important to develop these skills at a young age and to build a desire to help people less fortunate in order to make the community a better place.

“It’s important for students to understand, and know that concept,” Weninger said.

Service leadership is also a requirement for FFA participants to obtain the organization’s State and American degrees.

The National FFA Organization encourages chapters to give back to their communities with the “Million Hour Challenge.” This is a special initiative that unites youth from across the country to build up their community through civic engagement and service learning, according to Glessing.

Every chapter logs its number of service hours, with the goal of acquiring one million hours.

Throughout the year, there are a number of service opportunities in which both HLWW and DC FFA members can partake.

In the fall, there is the corn drive for Camp Courage, when FFA members collect either cash or corn from area businesses, farmers, and community members. The corn is then sold at the local elevator and all of the money collected is then donated to the Courage Center, a Minnesota-based rehabilitation and resource center. Some of the funds are then directed to Camp Courage in Maple Lake.

This year, DC collected and donated $7,100 to the Courage Center, and HLWW collected and donated more than $6,000.

Around Thanksgiving, the FFA chapters host an annual food drive, when donations are collected and brought to the local food shelves.

This year, 2,500 items were donated to the Cokato Area Food Shelf by the DC FFA chapter.

“We had a really good year,” Glessing said.

HLWW collected and donated 43 boxes of food during its food drive, called Project Caring, which served 132 individuals, according to Weninger, adding the chapter worked closely with Margaret Marketon, Community Education director.

Weninger noted there were more people in need this year than in past years. Along with the food, $966 was collected by different civic organizations and the HLWW FFA, and $600 was matched by Thrivent Financial, making a grand total of $1,566 in monetary donations alone. This money went toward purchasing other grocery items, which were then distributed through area churches, according to Weninger.

In January, the local FFA chapters host a Teddy Bear Toss at the boys’ and girls’ basketball games between the two town rivals.

Spectators are asked to bring stuffed animals to the game to be thrown out onto the court during half-time. Last year, the stuffed animals were given to the local fire and rescue squads for disbursement to families in need.

This year, teddy bears were donated to area hospitals to be dispersed among their youth patients.

Protecting the environment is also an important community service project for FFA members. Each FFA chapter has its own two-mile stretch of ditches that is cleaned each spring and fall through the Adopt-a-Highway program.

Leadership and community service is something that is not only stressed through FFA, but is also a part of the agriculture curriculum taught at both school districts, according to Weninger.

Landscaping at school and within the community has also been a part of the agriculture curriculum. The HLWW students have participated in a number of landscaping projects around the area including landscaping around the new high school. Students are involved with everything from the design to the construction and planting.

HLWW students have also provided landscaping to the Winsted and Waverly elementary schools and the middle school in Howard Lake, as well as the Wright County Fairgrounds and St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Waverly.

Much of the landscaping done by DC students has been around the high school/middle school facility, according to Glessing.

Along with the service component, there is also the teaching aspect, with agriculture literacy programs the local FFA chapters have been involved with including, Breakfast on the Farm. This event is co-hosted by HLWW and DC FFA chapters and gives families an opportunity to learn about farm activities and animals.

Literacy programs work to educate consumers about the industry of agriculture, Glessing said.

Other educational programs FFA members can be involved in are the children’s barnyard at county fairs, along with the Miracle of Birth Center and Little Farm Hands at the Minnesota State Fair.

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